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Momentum
A blog from Medium about the fight against anti-Black racism.
The Emancipation Trail riders cycled for about 55 miles of highways and trails between Galveston and Houston, Texas. Bikers took the route paved by freedmen who left Galveston after learning — two years after the fact — about the end of slavery. The route is now a National Historic Trail. Photos: Michael Starghill for Momentum/Medium

This essay is a special contribution to Momentum @ Medium by Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, also an avid cyclist. Scroll down for additional images of the ride, which started in Galveston and ended in Houston’s Emancipation Park.

Living in Texas, I have always felt connected to a special part of Black history in this country. It’s a complicated and difficult history of enslavement, oppression, and discrimination, but also of Black resistance, triumph, and joy. Juneteenth is emblematic of this complicated history. It marks the day that, on June 19, 1865, those who were enslaved in Texas finally learned about…


Little children play with hula hoops during a Juneteenth celebration in Durham, N.C. It’s a scene repeated city after city and state after state as even more people begin to celebrate the nation’s newest, federally-recognized holiday. Photo: Cornell Watson for Momentum

For many Black Americans, Juneteenth is the real Independence Day. It marks the date in 1865 — two years after the Emancipation Proclamation — when enslaved Texans were finally notified that they were free. Since then, on every Juneteenth in Texas and later, in other states, Black families come together and communities hold celebrations filled with music, dance, poetry, red foods, somber reflections and education. There are parades and concerts, festivals and fireworks. It’s a day of joy and rejoicing, of ancestral memory and dreams. Freedom.

Momentum enlisted the help of three photographers — one in Birmingham, one in Durham…


Instagram-ready: An installation reading “Free 1865” is surrounded by red, black, and green balloons at a Birmingham, Alabama, Juneteenth celebration. All images in this post taken by Joi West for Momentum at Medium.

File This Under: Black Joy

During a very stormy day, I photographed various Juneteenth celebrations across the Birmingham, Alabama, region. These events included a program at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, a small potluck hosted by Alabama Rally Against Injustice and Cell A65, and an intimate Juneteenth gathering hosted by my friend Brandi.

Seeing people of various ages and cultures celebrate Juneteenth, I realized that we have resilience against all odds. We unabashedly celebrate our Black joy as a form of resistance to those who have denied and still today deny our true freedom from slavery. We keep our oral history, memorialize our ancestors, and…


Willa was clapping along to the beat on her mommy’s shoulders while the drumline played a cadence. All images taken by Cornell Watson for Momentum at Medium.

File This Under: Black Joy

This past weekend, I emptied out my camera bag and made space for diapers, wipes, and a few face masks. After a year-plus of quarantining, I strapped my three-year-old daughter into the car seat, and we headed out to our first post-Covid public gathering, a Juneteenth celebration. We decided to celebrate the first federally recognized Juneteenth in the historic Hayti community of Durham, North Carolina. Hayti was a flourishing community of businesses, churches, and schools built by freed Black people after the Civil War. In the 1960s and later, urban renewal destroyed 4,000 homes and 500 businesses in the neighborhood…


Juneteenth is officially a federal holiday. President Joe Biden signed the surprisingly bipartisan bill which passed unanimously in the Senate with only 14 House Republicans opposing it. Biden said Juneteenth National Independence Day, as it has been named, is an example of how “great nations don’t walk away. We come to terms with the mistakes we made […] and grow stronger.”

For the uninitiated, Juneteenth is shorthand for June 19, 1865. …


Black farmers have lost a lot of their land over the years. Photo: Getty Images

In 1920, there were nearly one million Black farmers in the United States representing 14% of all farmers in America. By 1997, there were barely more than 18,000, less than 1%. During that time, Black farmers accused the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) of race-based discrimination in the form of denying or delaying loans essential to all growers looking to maintain their farms and harvest each year.

While the number of Black farmers has more than doubled since 1997, Black people are still suffering from a century of disenfranchisement that has caused them to lose billions in profits.

“Once…


Happy Juneteenth, everybody! By the time you read this, you’re probably on the cusp of celebrating when the day’s news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached the enslaved people of Galveston, Texas. It’s just become a federal holiday, a move which is sure to be seen as a victory by some who have fought decades for it to be recognized. Whether you’re marking the day with some reflection time to yourself or a party with the red food and drink traditionally associated with the holiday, take a few minutes to read up on the ways Black folk continue to fight…


Black Art Matters

Photo from Gordon Parks’ exhibit “Hope in the Wilderness.”

In photographer Gordon Parks’ 1971 book Born Black, members of the Black Panther Party pose at their headquarters in Berkley, California; the Fontenelle family battles poverty; and men from the Fruit of Islam run drills with their arms outstretched in powerful black and white photos. The collection of images and essays commissioned by Life magazine, where Parks was the first African American staff photographer, covers critical moments and figures from 1960–1970, including Muhammad Ali’s 1966 fight with Londoner Henry Cooper and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1968 funeral.

The late Parks was a celebrated filmmaker, musician, and artist. Much of…


Taylor Hall takes a moment to rest on top of picnic blankets and a red, black, and green stars-and-stripes flag while watching clouds in Stockton Park in Detroit on Juneteenth 2021. I took this photo because it feels like not enough images are made of Black women relaxing and just being. She looked so content and relaxed that I had to snap a photo. All images in this post taken by Val Waller for Momentum at Medium.

Momentum

A blog from Medium about the fight against anti-Black racism.

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