June 19, 2023
BECAUSE OF THEM
A Reflection from the Interpath Traditions
Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
As I was exploring possible ways to observe Juneteenth, I came across a website called “Because of Them We Can” on Black excellence. I was deeply touched and started thinking of all the people who have made the World a better place for the rest of us.
Juneteenth is now a Federal Observance and, hopefully, will soon become a day commemorating the end of slavery and a time to commit ourselves to the cause of liberation for all peoples. The ill effects of slavery continue to tarnish our history as a people. One man named John, commenting on the June 19th observance, said, “Let’s make Juneteenth a commemorative, not of the horrific institution our country embraced, but rather as a showcase of the strength in the American spirit to recognize wrong and set about making it right.”
I am filled with gratitude and awe for the thousands of people who have and continue to work for the human rights of all people. Perhaps Juneteenth should be a religious observance as well. Because of them, we have more than a fighting chance to be a people of peace based on justice and liberty for all.
“Because of Them We Can” remembers and celebrates those in the past whose courage has transformed our World today. Remembrance is crucial. As we remember the courage of those who have gone before us, we pledge to help those in need today. As Angela Davis once said, “Today on Juneteenth, the day we celebrate the end of slavery, the day we memorialize those who offered us hope for the future, and the day when we renew our commitment to the struggle for freedom.”
One thing I fear about official holidays and observances is the tendency to think of them as “days off.” Juneteenth invites all of us to realize our responsibilities for caring for one another. We must not let expedient politicians or unscrupulous religious leaders close our eyes to our obligations in the cause of liberty and justice for all. No belief or tradition, no political ideology or party is more important than the right of a human person to claim their dignity. We are in this struggle together. As Fannie Lou Hamer said, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”
Blessings to you, Holy Community, for honoring those who have made our World a better place. Gratitude to you for striving to make the World a better place for people not yet born.