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Happy Juneteenth!

Cover image of pieces by Korey Edmonson, a Pittsburgh-based artist whose stunning work I saw at the Three Rivers Art Festival recently.

After a busy shift at the bakery this morning, I spent the afternoon reading some James Baldwin & then scrolled through social media, which sparked the idea of this post.

In a small way, I hope to join in celebrating Black humanity, literature & activism in the shadow of centuries of dehumanization — and ongoing legacies of injustice — by featuring four creatives/activists in this post.

1. An advocate for racial & maternal justice, Cessilye R. Smith is the founder & executive director of Abide Women's Health Services, whose mission is to improve birth outcomes among underserved communities.

Cessilye is an inspiration to me, and her work is desperately needed. I support Cessilye on Patreon & hope you will too, if you are able! Or, there is also a link to her PayPal on her website, linked above.

2. 20th-century writer & intellect Zora Neale Hurston is known for her contributions to African-American literature.

Reading her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God is taking months (because I am reading 10+ other books at the same time), but here are some memorable excerpts:

"The rose of the world was breathing out smell. It followed her through all her waking moments and caressed her in her sleep. It connected itself with other vaguely felt matters that had struck her outside observation and buried themselves in her flesh. Now they emerged and quested about her consciousness."

"Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board."

"'Ah was born back due in slavery so it wasn't for me to fulfill my dreams of whut a woman oughta be and to do. Dat's one of de hold-backs of slavery. But nothin' can't stop you from wishin'.'"

3. 20th-century writer James Baldwin's use of language is breathtaking with insight and lyricism. Two quotes of his:

"You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive."

"Perhaps home is not a place, but simply an irrevocable condition." (from Giovanni's Room)

4. Lastly, some gorgeous music by composer, flutist, & vocalist Nathalie Joachim, performed with the Spektral Quartet:

Today I am grateful for these & countless other Black creatives & activists, for the light & connection they have brought into the world with their life's work.

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