Taken from NJ.com
By Phil Wilson, Treasurer, Local 5094
June 19, 2022
I have documents showing when my enslaved ancestors were bought, sold, and emancipated, marriage certificates even, and a sepia-toned photograph of a great grandfather, the Rev. Reuben Wilson Sr., who was freed in Virginia in 1865.
Martin Luther King once said, “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.”
My brother, David, actually did that while researching a documentary about our family’s history. He met a namesake, David Wilson, a white North Carolina businessman old enough to be his father, who was a descendant of the white Wilsons, in North Carolina. He owned my great grandfather, the Rev. Reuben Wilson Sr.
I even know where one of the slave houses, called the Big House, is on a Danville, Virginia tobacco plantation.
Yet, it took my son to educate me on historical events such as Juneteenth and the “Black Wall Street” massacre.
I am, of course, excited that this date is now being acknowledged and celebrated but I’m also wary of it being diluted by big business. The important thing is to not look at the day in isolation but as one point in many landmark days in our nation’s history.
For some, it is just another day off. For my family, although we don’t have a set of traditions around the day, we cannot take this day lightly because we are fortunate to know who our ancestors were and something of what they went through.
Theirs and other ancestors’ struggles in the days of slave patrols, for instance, are antecedent to many of the issues that gave rise to today’s Black Lives Matter movement.
History does not stand still. So, this date is stacked with lessons I teach my children about the history of this country, the struggles we went through and still face, and the fight we still must carry on.