By: Darrie Matthew Burrage

Jubilation. Liberation. Emancipation. Freedom. These words finally held meaning on Monday, June 19, 1865, for the slaves of Galveston, Texas. They were the last of enslaved peoples to become aware of slavery’s formal ending in the United States, declared in President Lincoln’s 1862 Emancipation Proclamation.

Place yourself in that small, cotton port of Galveston at the exact moment when you grasp that you, never having been so, are now, free. What does that freedom feel like to you — in your body and your spirit?  

This article isn’t a history lesson; it’s an exercise in empathy. By imagining the tragically harsh circumstances that slaves endured, we can nudge our own realization of something deeply tragic we may be enduring ourselves. Let us enter into a more personal meditation on freedom, with an honest reflection of the things in our lives from which we long to be free.

Feeling Freedom. When was your first (or most recent) experience of freedom and what did it feel like? What images and sensations are embedded in your description of freedom?

Finding Freedom. What is the freedom you now desire most in life? Is that freedom related to finances, relationships, your abilities, your past? What is it about that freedom that has had a lingering impact on you?

Fellowship in Freedom. What do you believe you need (for yourself and from others) to be part of someone else’s journey to freedom? What voices would you like to join in your own freedom song?

For every freedom we seek, there is a Galveston, Texas – a place within ourselves with conditions that inhibit the potential for our lives. Be encouraged in knowing that there is an Emancipation Proclamation for you. There is something for each of us to confront, say, hear, learn, complete, or release that can activate jubilation and our ultimate liberation. Proclaim your freedom as if it were present. Pursue your freedom as if it were waiting for you. Use this Juneteenth holiday to celebrate the emancipation of those historically enslaved and contemplate the emancipation that is dawning for you.