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I’m sitting outside in the fresh air, enjoying weather that’s almost just-right and enjoying being out of the house. A house that my husband and I – a mixed race couple – bought just two months ago. 

 

Owning a home wasn’t something that I initially aspired to. It was an idea that was so far-fetched for me (in my head) that I never even considered trying. That changed when I had kids and realized that I needed to do whatever I could to give them a better life.

 

We had a lot of support from our families, and I will forever be grateful. But, it took an enormous effort to get to this space and this place, and I will always honor my ancestors who fought hard to pave the way for the opportunity that I now have.

 

I wish I could thank them. I wish I could show them who I am. I wish I could tell them about my Master’s degree, an opportunity that wasn’t afforded to them. And I wish that I could tell them that, even though being enslaved is not a part of my lived experience, I know that it was a part of theirs. A horrible part. And I wish I could tell them that I will do my best to make sure that history isn’t forgotten by honoring them through my thoughts, words, and actions.

 

One of the ways that I am choosing to do that this year is by co-coordinating Inner Strength’s participation in one of the city’s amazing Juneteenth festivals. I couldn’t be more excited.

 

Juneteenth – June 19th – is an incredibly important day in the African-American community because it was on that day in 1865, that our last enslaved ancestors were freed.

 

And no, that year isn’t wrong. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed years earlier, not everyone was freed at the same time. It took 2 1/2 years for word to get to Texas – the westernmost Confederate state – via 2000 Union soldiers, that slavery had ended. 

 

My ancestors weren’t equal, but they were free. And equality is a fight that continues to this day–on so many levels. 

 

It’s a fight that I – and my colleagues at Inner Strength – have taken up, in part, by ensuring equality of access to critical mental health, social emotional, and trauma-informed tools. It is well-known that minorities experience massive health disparities, and we are doing what we can to bridge that gap. We believe that everyone who wants it should have access to mindfulness and wellness programs, supportive tools, and technology.

 

To achieve that, we are increasing our community activities.  We are going to where the people are; resource fairs, neighborhood association meetings, home and school meetings, conferences, and yes, festivals. 

 

So, join us on June 19, 2022 at Malcolm X Park, 5100 Pine Street, Philadelphia, PA .* Let us all honor and celebrate those who came before. Let us continue the fight for equality. Let us come together as a community to empower, uplift, celebrate and connect. We are the embodiment of light, brighter than any night. Let’s shine.

 

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

 

-Maya Angelou



Alyson Showell LaPorta

 

*If you would like to volunteer to be a part of Inner Strength’s table at the festival,  please email Jazman Dobson at jazman@innerstrengtheducation.org or Alyson Showell LaPorta at alyson@innerstrengtheducation.org

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