Saturday, March 25, 2023

Black Americans living abroad reflect on Juneteenth

BANGKOK – As the United States marks only the second federally recognized Juneteenth, black Americans living abroad embrace the holiday as a day of reflection and an opportunity to educate people in their host countries on black history Is.

President Joe Biden moved quickly last year to federally recognize the day since the last enslaved people were told they would live on June 19, 1865, two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. were independent in Galveston, Texas.

In Liberia, 45-year-old Sakar Ahh Ahrshu of Jersey City, NJ, is hosting the nation’s first “Journey Home Festival.”

“Because it’s part of that hidden African American history that still hasn’t been fully unpacked,” he said in Monrovia.

Liberia, Africa’s oldest free republic, was founded exactly 200 years ago this year in 1822 by freed slaves repatriated from the United States to West Africa. This weekend’s event will include a trip to Providence Island, where former slaves settled before moving to what is now mainland Monrovia.

While there are no official statistics tracking black Americans traveling abroad, many are discussing it more openly after the police killing of George Floyd. Subsequently, many African Americans saw America “from the outside in” and made up their mind not to return.

Debate coach Tashina Ferguson, 26, was living in New York at the time of Eric Garner’s death.

She moved to South Korea in 2019 and will celebrate Juneteenth with a group of drag performers on Sunday at a fundraising brunch for the Marsha P. Johnson Institute.

She has mixed feelings about the latest federal holiday.

“Juneteenth’s professionalism is complete with this, ‘Put it on a T-shirt, put it on a tub of ice cream’ kind of thing,” she said. “But as a black person within the black community I’m like, ‘Yeah, let’s celebrate us.'”

She said that only a powerful change would consider her return to America.

Chrisann Wright in New Jersey speaks regularly with black Americans who are planning or have already made plans to move abroad.

Wright, 47, hosts the “Blaxit Global” podcast and says many of his guests are tired of America

“They’ve done everything they can to achieve the American dream, and that benchmark keeps going. They don’t feel like they’re on solid ground in terms of retiring comfortably or being able to pay off student loans or cover their bills.” Huh.

Wright plans to move to Portugal in 2023. Through her podcast, she already knows about Juneteenth celebrations this weekend in the capital, Lisbon.

In some places with large populations of black Americans, Juneteenth is already part of the program.

Latonya Whitaker, a resident of Mississippi, has been living in Japan for 17 years. She is executive director of Legacy Foundation Japan, which hosted a Juneteen gathering of about 300 people on Saturday at the Razzie Tokyo American Club.

She and her husband David had not planned to live in Japan.

Like Whitaker, many black Americans in the Juneteenth program came to Japan almost by chance as Christian missionaries or Peace Corps volunteers. But he made Japan his home.

She now wants to raise her son there because she worries about gun violence in America

“I realized we really needed a community,” Whitaker said.

Michael Williams teaches African American history at Temple University in Tokyo and left the US at the age of 22. He is now 66 years old and lived abroad for most of his adult life, but returned to the US for graduate school in Boston and Baltimore.

America has changed so much that when he visits he feels like a tourist, he laughs.

Williams said he knew about Juneteenth from teaching history.

“I will always end my productions with the hope that someday, it will be a national holiday. And so now it is, and it feels great,” he said.

In Taipei, Toei Windham and Casey Abbott Payne are holding several events to celebrate Juneteenth. Part of Black Lives Matter Taiwan, both are hosting performances by Black artists and musicians.

The two celebrated with their families long before the federal holiday.

Windham has lived in Taiwan for five years, and had always celebrated growing up in Texas. For him, it’s an opportunity to educate people about a different part of American culture, even the darker parts.

“Many people enjoy hip-hop culture and dress and parts of our culture, but I think it’s important to accept all parts of Black culture,” she said.

Payne, an organizer, has lived in Taiwan for 11 years and said he also celebrated Juneteenth, who grew up in Milwaukee, which is one of the oldest celebrations across the country.

“As a kid, I remember there were street vendors engaged in the street, and there would be music playing and there would be a Juneteenth parade going on,” he said.

Still for others, the day is a chance to happily retreat and relax.

In Bangkok, a group called Ebony Expats organized a silent film screening, a bike ride in a nature reserve, and dinner at a Jamaican restaurant serving jerk chicken and pumpkin soup.

Restaurant owner Colin Clifford McCoy served 20 years in the US military before opening his restaurant in Thailand during the pandemic. He said the Juneteen holiday is an opportunity for black people to share their culture, American or not, while being so far away from home.

“Overall, it’s about coming together no matter where we are, and it tells how much blood it takes to come together and enjoy ourselves as a community,” he said.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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