If I had been observing (note I did not say celebrate) the new year prior to 1865, I would have been worrying that my sons, daughter, mother or myself would be sold in the next week or so. You see, that was the prime time of year slave owners sold their chattel (Black people).
If I had been observing the new year in 1862, I would most likely not have known that President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation (22 Sept. 1862). I probably would not have known that 339 years of enslavement had ended and that my children, my mother and I would finally have an opportunity to be recognized as full legitimate citizens and fully partake the American Dream - on paper at least. You see, the Proclaimation did not go into effect until 1 Jan 1863 and was not fully enforced until 19 June 1865 (Juneteenth). But the stranglehold of racism intimately mixed with injustice would not be erased with the sweep of a President's pen. Even with the end of legal slavery, if I had been celebrating the new year in the 19th or 20th centuries I still would have had to worry about the lives and well being of my children, my mother and myself.
But the nation's grappling with the 'Black problem' did not end in 1865. The struggle for full, fair and equal representation lumbered on for another 143 years. Between 1871 and 1991, 9 Civil Rights Acts were passed through our government's Congress; along with the desegregation of the U.S. Military, Brown v. the Board of Education, Loving v. Virginia, and on and on. And along the way, for every three steps forward there were two steps back. But, though the process was long, dangerous and frustrating, things did get better and continue to.
Then in 2008, something miraculous happened. U.S. citizens of every hue elected our first African American president - Barack Obama.
I don't need to rehash the details, you were there. And a glorious time it was and is! As this new year begins, full of possibilites and opportunities, I marvel at - and am so grateful - that my children, mother and I are living in the 21st century. My children live in an age where the 1st pix in this post is long, long ago. And have been replaced by...
Vivre, rire, aimer!