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Poetically Yours - Juneteenth

Provided by Christopher D. Sims
Christopher D. Sims

Welcome to this week's Poetically Yours. Poetically Yours showcases poems by northern Illinois poets. This week's episode features Christopher D. Sims.

Sims is from the West Side of Rockford and first shared his poetic gifts onstage at Haskell Elementary School, thanks to Dorothy Paige-Turner.

Rooted in Black joy and celebration, his poems wind through the landscapes of this country's past and present. He hopes they will inform, engage, and entertain. Sims, who originally wrote rap and hip-hop lyrics, said his poetry has a bebop cadence.

Today he shares his poem “When You Say Juneteenth.”

We celebrate Juneteenth
officially now, across this
nation. We, people of
African descent
had been waiting,
had been anticipating.

We are the descendants
of the Black Texans who
one day found themselves
free after the North claimed
victory after Abraham Lincoln

signed the Emancipation
Proclamation. We wear red,
black, and green to remember;

we enter the coming days
giving thanks and praise
to whom this country once
enslaved. In our communities,

we claim joy and unity,
togetherness, stories, the glory
of being Black people.

We are celebrating freedom
that was long fought for.

We are celebrating a liberation
our ancestors have died for. Imagine
being in bondage in Galveston, Texas
in the 1860s and learning that you are
now free.

Imagine what that experience has done
for the psyche of you, me. After Juneteenth
became a nationally recognized holiday
the conversations, the research began.

Juneteenth was new to many, but not
to the people of the sun! We can drum,
we can sing, we can gather, we can
celebrate - but overall, most of us are
still in the same state of poverty,
of mass incarceration, of injustice,
of inequity.

We are not free until we all are collectively.

We have traveled a long road, we are the
darker hue who still survive, let the future
be the light we can see in one another’s eyes,

let the consciousness of the United States rise
to levels never witnessed before, and may we
one day see people in bondage no more.

May the youth continue to learn,
be able to open their history books
and see pages documenting such an
important date because learning our history,
our culture is how we relate, how we avoid
making the same mistakes!

When you say Juneteenth, you are
giving praise to the spirits of the slaves
whose names and spirits were engraved
when this country was made.

© Christopher D. Sims
All rights reserved
June 14th, 2022

  • Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.
Yvonne covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This could include how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities. Boose is a recent graduate of the Illinois Media School and returns to journalism after a career in the corporate world.