Juneteenth is a 157-year-old holiday that celebrates the liberation of black Americans from slavery. It is also the annual reminder of systemic racismBlack people in America have faced persecution and cruelty. However, if you want to spend the holiday enjoying stories about Black empowerment, victory, and purpose, Nakisha Lewis, president and CEO of Breakthrough, a media advocacy organization, has you covered.
Lewis says she has been an advocate of racial justice since childhood, organizing events on her high school and college campuses. Prior to working at Breakthrough, Lewis was director of civil, human and women’s rights at the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.
As a Caribbean parent, Lewis didn’t grow up celebrating Juneteenth, but became more aware of its importance after the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012.
“It’s not something I grew up with. It wasn’t a family tradition, but, being in the black space as a black person, to learn more and share my black experiences with the diaspora , I realized that we take it any way we want.
In honor of Juneteenth’s legacy, Lewis says these three books should be at the top of your reading list:
“Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Finds Her Superpower”
by Brittany Cooper
Black women being aggressive is something that many would like to disappear. However, Brittany Cooper takes this stereotype and redefines it in this collection of essays. Walking readers through her own personal experiences with the problems facing black women, Cooper demonstrates that “eloquent anger” is a reminder that women don’t have to be complacent, and that their passion and fury are what distinguished them. makes.
Lewis says the book is “in line with her own journey as a black feminist.”
“I think a lot of the references and mentions, Britney, made me feel like, ‘Yeah, this looks like feminism.’ It also helped me answer the question, How do you find yourself? Your purpose, passion, and happiness? I think we all have different superpowers, and you have to figure out what yours is. But that journey, that takes us forward, you know, it’s just such a different perspective. And it felt like there was a lot of synergy.”
“Not all boys are blue”
by George M Johnson
The book is a memoir/manifesto about Johnson’s early life growing up as a young, gay black man. Appealing to young adults, Johnson walks readers through the trials and tribulations he faced as a boy in addition to the joys he experienced along the way.
“All Boys Are Not Blue” touches on complex topics like consent, toxic masculinity and gender identity, and Lewis believes the book “broke down barriers” to young, black, gay men of color.
“Just As I Am: A Memoir”
by Cicely Tyson
The late Cicely Tyson is a legend in the black community for her roles in movies like ‘Sounder’ and TV projects like ‘Roots’. Although she played many different roles during her 60-year-long career, her portrayal of a powerful black woman was relentless, earning her the love, respect and status of matriarch of black women from all walks of life.
Her memoir walks readers through her life before and after fame, and highlights the pain and hurt she felt as a black woman living in America. Lewis praised Tyson for his authenticity and transparency in sharing his story.
“Looking at that dynamic life, I’ve learned a lot from the book. Literally from the struggles of the early 1900s, to be someone who has just broken down so many barriers in film. That’s very, very much to me. is inspiring.”