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Juneteenth 2022

Happy Juneteenth (observed)!

[Please see below for details on our 2022 Juneteenth fundraiser].

Yesterday, we celebrated Father’s Day and Juneteenth simultaneously. While the two days have overlapped before, 2022 is the first year to bring us both since the world turned inside out in the wake of COVID-19 and racialized social unrest following the murder of George Floyd. I confess I’m unsettled when I consider how few of us even knew what Juneteenth is and that the holiday has shared a day with Father’s Day before, but this presents a ripe moment for discourse to kick off our week. Note: I considered penning and publishing this essay on ‘actual’ Juneteenth, but opted for a Monday, June 20th publication instead because as a Black American, I abstain from labor on June 19th.

In the United States, the popular and dangerous myth of the absentee Black father persists, despite mounding evidence to the contrary. This stereotype is so popular that one need not look any further than popular media to find an abundance of such negative and inaccurate depictions of Black men. What I would argue is equally or more damaging, is that where Black men are missing from their homes, it is overwhelmingly due to external forces. Systems and phenomena like the school-to-prison pipeline, over policing in Black neighborhoods, disproportionate early deaths to diabetes, heart failure, and medical malpractice have kept Black families separated well into our 157th year of Black liberation.

Black fathers in the U.S face another challenging truth–the socialization of Black masculinity and fatherhood in the context of our country’s history. From the forced feminization of enslaved Black men, to common physical and psychological tortures like whipping, castration, solitary confinement, and family separation, American Black fatherhood remains deeply impacted by the incongruent roles Black fathers inhabit as both family leaders and massively, systemically disempowered individuals.

In considering how these past 157 years have informed Father’s Day in Black spaces, know that outdoor recreation and adjacent activities (like indoor rock climbing) remain largely out of reach for Black families. In fact, ‘outside’ remains almost as effectively anti-black as it ever was. Contrary to popular belief, this is not because Black people don’t like outdoor recreation, but rather, because we have been forcefully, violently, and (until relatively recently) legally excluded from outdoor activities. We are now permitted to enter swimming pools and national parks (and Roosevelt is rolling in his grave over it) but as the terrorizing, racially-motivated actions of Amy Cooper, barbeque Becky, and the murders of 12 year old Tamir Rice and 25 year old Ahmaud Arbery (to name a select few) demonstrate, it is disproportionally unsafe even in 2022 for Black people to be outside, alone or together, even in public green spaces, and regardless of whether we are doing anything wrong. I believe the horror film cliche wherein the token Black cast member is the first character to die illustrates how comfortable our culture is with this reality. Conversely, Jordan Peele’s 2017 blockbuster horror hit Get Out unironically places our Black protagonist in a truly terrifying place: a white suburb.

ASCEND recognizes that the racialized outdoor recreation gap comprises many nuanced and multifaceted issues that no single business or industry can rectify alone. However, as stewards of both the great outdoors and the communities in which we operate, we also acknowledge our responsibility to step up where we are positioned to effect the change we want to see in the world.

This Juneteenth we launched our 2022 Juneteenth fundraiser in collaboration with 1Hood Media and Youngstown Creative Collective– two nonprofits working to uplift the Black communities in Pittsburgh and Youngstown, respectively. In celebration of Juneteenth, these special $10 Day Passes will be donated to 1Hood Media and Youngstown Creative Collective to use within their communities, as well as 100% of the proceeds. If you're able, please contribute to ASCEND's Juneteenth Fundraiser! Our goal is to sell 157 passes in total in honor of the 157th Juneteenth, so purchase as many as you are able! That means 157 people will get to experience ASCEND and $1,570 will be raised for these two great organizations. This fundraiser will close on June 30th. If you can, please consider supporting this effort!

Thanks for your time,

Rachel

 

References

  • Addie Vinson, Ibid., Vol. 4 (GA), Part 4, 102–3; Jefferson Franklin Henry, Ibid., Vol. 4 (GA), Part 2, 183; Chris Franklin, Ibid., Vol. 16 (TX), Part 2, 56; Harrison Beckett, Ibid., Vol. 16 (TX), Part 1, 56.
  • Fay A. Yarbrough, “Power, Perception, and Interracial Sex: Former Slaves Recall a Multiracial South,” The Journal of Southern History 71, no. 3 (Aug., 2005), 559-560.
  • Norrece T. Jones Jr., Born a Child of Freedom, Yet a Slave: Mechanisms of Control and Strategies of Resistance in Antebellum South Carolina (Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 1990), 60.
  • Stanley M. Elkins, Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959); all slave narratives cited in this article appear in George P. Rawick, ed., The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography (Westport, CT.: Greenwood, 1972–79).