By Jazzy Harrison
Day 1 of 3: Bound + Escape
Almost three years after the Emancipation Proclamation given by Abraham Lincoln, the final slaves were set free in Galveston, Texas. June 19, 1865—Juneteenth—was a day of much rejoicing. Today, Juneteenth is still widely celebrated as a day of liberation commemorating the end of American Slavery. For queer black people of color, this day can hold a bit more for them. This devotional seeks to give encouragement to those who are seeking freedom from however they have been bound.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound”
-Isaiah 61:1 (ESV)
Although slavery took place and ended several hundred years ago, the wounds left behind by it find new ways to sting everyday. We see firsthand the remnants of oppression in microaggressions, emotional labor, and the senseless murders of unarmed black people by cops. Juneteenth is meant to be a time of both celebration and lament. For the queer person of color, it is so much more than just that. It is hope that we can be free not only in our identities as people of color, but also in our identities as LGBTQ+ individuals as well. Freedom from slavery didn’t come easy; no one snapped their fingers and ended it all. People had to fight, and many were killed. Black people in this country fought for several years to get where they are today.
When I first started thinking of what Juneteenth meant to me as a queer person of color, my immediate thought went to coming out. While I am not equating the horrors of slavery to the experiences of individual LGBTQ+ people, I want to point out the parallels. The feeling of not being able to speak up or live authentically for fear of losing physical safety is an experience that both slaves and LGBTQ+ people share. When a queer person first comes out of the closet, there is no guarantee for how the people in their lives will react. While it can be hard to celebrate freedom when your life had been marred by oppression, Isaiah 61:1 reminds us that we can be free and tell others of our freedom. In fact, God gives us permission to be free.
What are things that have kept you bound, to which you no longer wish to give power? With the idea that celebration is God-honoring in mind, how can you show an appreciation for your freedom? What are the ways you express your freedom from being bound?
Today, allow yourself to recognize the ways in which you’ve felt bound by your identity. Ask God to help you free those false ideologies and to live fully into who God created you to be. Fully, wholly, and wonderfully worthy of being free.