Healing is Action; Healing is Freedom

Anna Franklin The Black Lens

In celebration of Juneteenth, I am honored to share a powerful story from the Simmons family history – my family’s history. Our story is a testament to the resilience and healing power of our ancestors, whose legacy of love continues to inspire us today.

My great, great, great grandmother, whom we know as Morning, was torn from her home and sold into slavery at 15 years old, the same age as my youngest child today. Her journey in the horrific holding cells and across the Atlantic was marked by unimaginable suffering and loss. She endured months on a slave ship before being brought to Richmond, Virginia. Upon arrival in Richmond, Virginia she was purchased by our ancestor and taken to Alabama. She faced physical, spiritual, and emotional cruelty beyond belief, and became pregnant by the man that enslaved her. With fierce determination, she protected and nurtured her unborn child – my great, great grandfather. Upon learning of her pregnancy, her captor made the decision that his son, our great, great grandfather, would no longer work in the fields, although he remained enslaved.

When slavery eventually came to an end, our family received a horse and a few acres of land as symbolic tokens of our newfound freedom. It was on that land in Alabama that my grandmother Sally gave birth to my father, Willie Simmons. These beginnings mark a time of significant trauma and a journey towards healing and self-discovery.

As a family, we gather to honor Morning’s memory. We speak on our family’s strength, endurance, pain, and the love and faith that has carried us through the darkest of times. Researching, acquiring knowledge, and preserving our family’s history is a privilege we hold close to our hearts; not only as a means of remembering the past but as a powerful act of healing. These practices shape our identity and instill a sense of pride and purpose for all of us, and will for generations yet to come.

Healing is not just remembering; it is action. Our family stays active in our communities, regardless of where we live. We advocate for racial and social justice, each in our own unique way. We engage in dialogues about our history, fostering understanding and empathy. By engaging in spaces for open conversations, we actively work to heal the wound of the past and build a stronger future.

The yearning for connection, belonging and attachment is deeply ingrained in us as human beings. Exploring our past strengthens our bond with those who came before us, is what I call “healing love in action.” This is also why I place great importance on celebrating the history of all individuals. By honoring the lives of both past and present generations, we reignite their memory to continue the fight for equality and justice in our America.

On this Juneteenth, I invite you to join me in commemorating black freedom and liberation and paying tribute to the countless lives and generations affected by slavery and racial injustice. Let us remember and celebrate Morning’s legacy – a beacon of hope and resilience that lights and paves our path forward. Together, we will continue to uplift their stories and strive towards a future marked by genuine freedom and liberty, ensuring their sacrifices were not in vain.

Lift every voice and sing,

’Til earth and heaven ring,

Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;

Let our rejoicing rise

High as the listening skies,

Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,

Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,

Let us march on ’til victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,

Bitter the chastening rod,

Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;

Yet with a steady beat,

Have not our weary feet

Come to the place for which our fathers died.

We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,

We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,

Out from the gloomy past,

’Til now we stand at last

Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,

God of our silent tears,

Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;

Thou who has by Thy might

Led us into the light,

Keep us forever in the path, we pray.

Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,

Lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;

Shadowed beneath Thy hand,

May we forever stand,

True to our God,

True to our native land.

Lift Every Voice and Sing

“The Negro National Anthem”

James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson