Juneteenth: Moving Forward in the Fight for Justice

A pair of hands of people of different races intersecting

Recognized annually on June 19, Juneteenth marks the federal order to free slaves in Texas on June 19, 1865. While Juneteenth has historically and primarily been celebrated by Black communities, the day marks an important moment in our nation’s history. It offers an opportunity for all Americans to learn more about the history of slavery in the U.S., the specific structures of racism that followed Juneteenth and today’s ongoing fight for justice. 

Here’s a brief look at the history of Juneteenth, its significance and ideas for how you can recognize this important day in history:

The History of Juneteenth 

Though released on January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation did not automatically free all enslaved individuals in the United States. In states like Texas, slavery continued until June 19, 1865 when federal troops reached Galveston and proclaimed the freedom of enslaved men and women. A year later, on June 19, Black communities organized what we now call “Juneteenth,” a celebration of freedom that involved religious services, community activities, musical performances and big feasts. 

Throughout time, strawberry soda, barbecues and baseball became special hallmarks of the events, and Juneteenth adopted key focuses such as an emphasis on prayer, education and self-development. 

How to Honor Juneteenth Today

The National Museum of African American History and Culture writes, “The legacy of Juneteenth shows the value of deep hope and urgent organizing in uncertain times.” Though anti-racism education should be a consistent part of our lives, Juneteenth offers us a distinct opportunity to pause and dig in further to the history of and struggle for racial justice. 

Read a report from the Equal Justice Initiative on Reconstruction in Americathe complex history following the earliest Juneteenth celebration—or attend a virtual lecture offered by a respected institution, like the NMAAHC or the National Center for Civil and Human Rights

The urgent work of racial justice happens when we organize and gather in community to learn. Gather your community—your school, neighborhood or religious community—to honor Juneteenth. Follow Black activists, scholars and artists and engage in calls to action. You can also support organizations working toward racial justice with your time and donations.

Why the Fight for Justice Still Matters

The fight for justice for Black Americans matters. We still live in a society that is riddled with injustice. In the last year, we have witnessed injustice waged against the Black community and a stark rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, both in spite of a supposed increase in awareness about the reality of racism. 

Recognizing and honoring Juneteenth presents us with the shared opportunity to recognize where our nation has been and where we would like to go. It is a time to recognize a group of people who throughout history have been overlooked, marginalized, abused, stereotyped, profiled and threatened. It is up to us, not our parents or their parents, to be the change we want to see, which begins with humility and growing in our awareness and understanding of the true history of America and its injustices.

In what ways can you take time to learn about the history of Juneteenth? How confident are you to pursue hard conversations about race and racial injustice? What, if anything, holds you back?

Illustration via Micaela Fox

Darling Letters: How to Keep Your Heart Tender

A woman in a navy blue suit crouched on the floor

We are bringing “Darling Letters” from your inbox to the blog! We love the art of letter writing and believe it helps build authentic community. Our editors and contributors have thoughtfully written encouraging letters to cut through the busyness and speak straight to your heart.

My bleary eyes check the clock, confirming it’s already tomorrow. 1:17 a.m. I grab my journal and scribble “I’m too raw and exposed. Just teetering on an edge.” 

I breathe in and out the prayerful pleas on my heart to steady myself back into my body. Now, it’s 6:12 a.m. I’m awake again as my 4-year-old daughter clumsily tries to sneak under my covers. Her big, sleepy eyes beg for a snuggle, and she’s wrapped up in my arms just like that. Down the hall my eldest runs his fingers across the keys of our hand-me-down piano, and music fills the house and my heart too, which is strung out from yesterday’s heartache. Right now, however, it’s so full from the sweet glory of a new day that tears hit my cheeks.

Right now, however, [my heart is] so full from the sweet glory of a new day that tears hit my cheeks.

The kids are antsy for breakfast, but I quickly journal, “My mind reels and wanders. My heart swells and breaks. I need the both/and. I don’t want to dull myself from feeling tender to all that remains good.”

The tender parts of us are a glimmer of our humanity. We remain tender by holding the tension of our “ands”joy and grief, hard and sacred. I want to be soft enough to behold and brim the beauty of it all while remaining unflinchingly curious and empathetic to wade into the deep of what is broken and painful. Hard-fought, deep joy doesn’t deny or look away from sorrow. Even in heartache, we can hold space for hope to return. 

Even in heartache, we can hold space for hope to return. 

Author and activist Parker Palmer taught me the etymology of the word humus, which is the decayed vegetable matter that nurtures the roots of plants. It comes from the same root word for humility. Our most humble momentsface down in the dirt, tender and rawmay create the richest soil for deep rooting and meaning. If we harden ourselves, we’ll miss it. Stay tender for truth, healing, beauty and justice to grow wild here.

With a tender heart,
Jessica Mayfield, the Darling family

What negative connotation does “a tender heart” carry in society? How do you perceive “tenderness” and “vulnerability”? How can keeping your heart soft and tender be used to your advantage?

Image via Taylor Roades, Art via Ash (Opperman) Wilson

Darling Letters: La Libertad Que Se Encuentra Al Abrazar El Gris

A gray image of an ocean shore

Darling is working to translate some of our content into Spanish. If you have edits or feedback on this translation, our team would love your input! Email blog@darlingmagazine.org and include Spanish Translation in your subject line.

For the English version, click here.

Translation via Jennifer Rodriguez

Hace cuatro veranos, una amiga y yo nos sentamos en un muelle, mirando las estrellas y reflexionando sobre la vida. Hablamos sobre las diferencias en cómo pensamos–cómo ella piensa en gris mientras que yo pienso en blanco y negro. Desde entonces, mi forma de pensar ha cambiado y ahora veo la belleza de la vida en las áreas grises. 

Desde entonces, mi forma de pensar ha cambiado y ahora veo la belleza de la vida en las áreas grises. 

El año pasado tuvo más paradojas de las que podía haber imaginado. Un año de profunda tristeza y dolor, risa y diversión, ira y examinación, aventura y renovación, vergüenza y miedo, curiosidad y crecimiento. Me sentí más confundida que nunca. Sin embargo, de alguna manera llegué a un lugar de confianza fundamentada que no sabía que fuera posible.

 Las áreas grises pueden ser intimidantes porque no tenemos control allí. Tenemos que ver a las personas como seres humanos dinámicos en lugar de separarlos en pequeñas categorías ordenadas. Algunas personas podrían describir esto como mantener una tensión de opuestos. Yo lo experimenté como una libertad que me envolvía como una ola– a veces tan poderosa que no podía pararme y a veces tan tranquila que todo lo que podía hacer era sentarme y respirar profundamente. 

Liberar la tensión de la paradoja y abrazar las áreas grises conducen a una aceptación radical y a una gratitud. Es hermoso reconocer cómo las experiencias únicas e incluso los opuestos pueden coexistir. 

Liberar la tensión de la paradoja y abrazar las áreas grises conducen a una aceptación radical y a una gratitud.

Con resolución,

¿Sueles ver la vida y las personas en blanco y negro? ¿Cuál es el valor de aprender a tener espacio para la paradoja?

Imagen vía Raisa Zwart Photography

How Nature Can Revive a Weary Soul

A woman's hand holding out a book along a gravel trail

While it may seem trite or obvious that nature is good for us, the benefits of nature on our mental wellness are infinite. There’s something so poetic and Thoreau about it, of course. We all love a bucolic moment—visualizing ourselves milking the cow and leisurely running our hands through a wheat field. But how do we, the suburban and city folk, really benefit from nature? 

After 2020 and transitioning back into a faster pace of life in 2021, it is possible that you may be feeling weary. We’ve overcome the trappings and the drawbacks of a year of the “new normal” and are walking a path now that is perhaps ambivalent and unknown. We are all finding our footing again. Last year, we were inside more than ever, and now as we return to the hustle of our “new normal,” it can be harder to find time to simply take a walk in the woods. 

So this, my friends, is where we begin. 

A walk in the woods is a lovely place to start, but what if we don’t have the woods? I know in suburban Southern California that I do not have any sort of woodland nearby. However, hills will work. Hiking paths, trails, a small yard or public park, they all work. 

If there’s nothing nearby, then I encourage you to familiarize yourself with what is close and accessible to hike or visit. There are urban farms and even many fairgrounds have botanical gardens or large grass lots where you can picnic. If nature isn’t convenient, please do not let that deter you. Find a way to access your own little piece of the great outdoors and bring it into your fold.

Find a way to access your own little piece of the great outdoors and bring it into your fold.

Here are a few practical tools on how to use nature to counteract your weariness:

1. Train your brain to crave the outdoors.

Just like exercise and coffee, which you’ve told your brain to do each morning, add going outside to your daily routine. After a while (it takes 21 days to build a habit), it’ll be second nature (pun intended). 

When you start to feel unrest, anxiety, sadness, the 2 p.m. slump or even the itch to “doom scroll” your Instagram, instead go outside. Sit with the sun on your face. Feel and smell the grass. Walk slowly enjoying any trees, shrubs and flowers that are along your path.

Sit with the sun on your face. Feel and smell the grass.

2. Soil makes us happy.

It’s been scientifically proven that gardening reduces anxiety and depression. How? Soil contains microbes that when inhaled, mimic what serotonin does to our brains. What?! I know, it’s wild. 

Gardening, and literally digging in the dirt, increases happiness and relaxation while decreasing feelings of dissatisfaction. Place yourself in the way of good things and find a way to garden if you can. Perhaps, a small 2 x 4 ft. raised bed would fit on your patio, or find a community garden that you can become involved in!

3. Learn to rest, not quit.

When you’re weary and rundown, it’s common to want to throw in the towel on whatever is ailing you, whether that be relationships, jobs, projects, etc. Nothing is safe. Instead, rest and then reevaluate. I’m not talking about a 20-minute power nap where you awake to an alarm and remain groggy all day. I’m talking about active rest in nature.

Nature has a revitalizing effect on us because it entertains us while allowing us to escape mentally. It turns off the active thinking brain and allows the subconscious to take over a bit. Similar to meditation, being in nature allows the neural pathways in your brain to rebuild and heal. It changes up your environment and introduces calm. This is necessary for our bodies and brains, and it allows our cells to repair and, in turn, keeps us healthy, rested, happy and moving. 

Everyday wonder and miracles abound in nature. Seeds self-sow. Colors emerge that have never before been seen. Plants create medicine that heals us. Being in mere proximity to that kind of wonder will revive your weary soul. After all, we’re simply atoms and dust ourselves, belonging quite perfectly amongst the ferns and flowers. 

Everyday wonder and miracles abound in nature.

For absolutely no reason whatsoever other than your own joy, today go be in nature. See for yourself the difference in how you feel. 

How often do you intentionally spend time in nature? How do you feel after time spent outside?

Image via Zoe Lea

Darling Letters: On the Type of Leaders We Choose to Be

A woman seated on a chair with her hands pressed against her mouth

We are bringing “Darling Letters” from your inbox to the blog! We love the art of letter writing and believe it helps build authentic community. Our editors and contributors have thoughtfully written encouraging letters to cut through the busyness and speak straight to your heart.

In her novel “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” author J.K. Rowling wrote, “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” 

Recently, on a hectic work day, I was reminded of these powerful words. As my email notifications pinged in the background, my stress levels piqued. Then, the moment happened. Someone on my team asked a question in an email chain about something that I had previously explained in detail, and I reacted instead of responding with patience. 

I reacted instead of responding with patience. 

I sent a quick and snippy, “Per my previous email…” You know that passive aggressive, easy response we send when we safely sit behind the comfort of our computer screens? She responded kindly with the necessary information, and instantly, I felt that little twinge in my heart say, “Oh shoot, I could have done better.”

The ball was in my court. I thought: What type of leader do I want to be? Will I be the person who is quick to apologize and who lifts up my team? Or will I be the prideful leader who is unrelenting and unwilling to show grace?

I knew what I wanted my answer to be. So I sent her a note thanking her for her hard work on the project and apologizing for being short with her in my previous email.

I’ve had my fair share of bad bossesinternship managers in NYC who sent me home crying, nonprofit leaders who micromanaged my every move and retail managers who made me carry all the weight. None of these are the type of leader or person I want to be. I want to roll up my sleeves and work side-by-side with my team. I want to champion them. I want to stay at the table to have the hard but necessary conversations for clarity. 

The measure of our leadership isn’t contingent upon how well we treat our superiors or those who have something to offer us. It’s based on how we treat our team, especially the ones who are a few steps behind us. Let’s roll up our sleeves and be leaders who lead from a place of humility and grace and watch how it transforms the workplace.

The measure of our leadership is based on how we treat our team, especially the ones who are a few steps behind us.

With hope,
Stephanie Taylor, Online Managing Editor

How would you describe your style of leadership? As leaders, how can we help foster healthy workplace culture?

Image via Ben Cope, Darling Issue No. 15

Letters to My Younger Self: The 19-Year-Old Starting a New Chapter

A woman with sunglasses holding flower petals

“Letters to My Younger Self” is a series focused on wisdom and self-awareness. Just as you write letters to a friend to encourage and uplift them, here is the advice we would go back and tell our younger selves.

Dear 19-year-old self,

A little more than a week ago, I read a letter that I wrote to my future self when I was your age. Your sorority pledge trainer encouraged you to do this. As you sat in the chapter room putting words to the page, you had no idea how much your words would mean to your future self.

So, here I am now, replying to your letter. 

I am currently in my college town, waiting for the last of my friends to leave. Everyone graduated this past weekend, and I am sticking around for graduate school.

As cliché as it may sound, the past four years of college have flown by. When you introduce yourself to new friends these next few months, keep in mind how soon the goodbyes will sneak up on you. For this reason, relish the hellos and the time in between. 

For this reason, relish the hellos and the time in between. 

This morning you spent some time journaling and reflecting on this past season. You were honest with yourself for the first time in a while and realized how many expectations were not met. That letter that you’re about to write reminded me of a lot of these expectations.  

Realize that unmet expectations are OK. Spoiler alert, you aren’t going to have a ring by spring. In other words, you aren’t going to be engaged by senior year. That’s OK.

Another spoiler alert, the people you think are your best friends now, you won’t even speak with regularly by senior year. True friendships are going to bloom out of unexpected places, and that’s also OK. 

Write your plans in pencil—both big plans and small plans. You will learn very quickly how little control you have over circumstances. Have grace for yourself and be open to change. Seriously, write that last sentence on a sticky note and hang it somewhere you will see every day. It’s that important to remember.

At the same time, keep dreaming big. Some of your plans will come to fruition. Be persistent and put yourself out there. You can do hard things!

Realize that unmet expectations are OK.

College is going to be where you experience your lowest lows, but it will also be where you will experience your highest highs. Sometimes unmet expectations will break your heart. In these moments, call your parents or go get ice cream with your friends. These heartbreaks are growing you into a person you never imagined you could be.  

Sometimes unmet expectations will propel you into a greater future. One door closed often leads to a better door waiting to be opened. When these moments happen, still call your parents and have a dance party with your friends. 

The reality is that if you could see who I am now, who you are going to become, you wouldn’t believe it. Keep challenging yourself to stretch and grow. Keep working hard, but allow yourself to have fun often. Keep being your unique self and the right people will gravitate toward you. 

Keep challenging yourself to stretch and grow. Keep working hard, but allow yourself to have fun often.

You are stronger, braver and wiser than you know. Thank you for taking the time to invest in yourself now because it will pay off in the future. In the words of your dad, “Keep being you!”

Your older self

What advice would you give to your younger self? What advice would you give yourself about unmet expectations of other people?

Image via Lenka Ulrichova, Darling Issue No. 16

Independence Day and the Ongoing Road to Freedom

Fireworks exploding dimly
Colors splashing silently
Against the midnight blue sky
I stay inside heart broken and awry

I want to celebrate you today—I do
Even if you haven’t always loved me too
Celebration for liberation I cannot feel
For I need space within myself to heal

Land of the free, home of the brave
Oh land of my heart, the blood you gave
To tear away and become your own
The victory won to now stand alone

I love my country: yes, I do
I am proud to have come from you
With your imperfections I am wrestling
With all that is not yet free I am reckoning

I wrestle so I can find truth’s acceptance
Then we can move forward in repentance
Both celebrate the birth of our nation in 1776
And commit to work on what still must be fixed

May we continue to push for the promises
Of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
For all humankind created equal and free
From colonies to one nation we overcame tyranny

Until all experience the same liberation others do
It is growth and change we must pursue
As we wish each other a happy fourth of July
May we commit to help every American be able to fly

To honor all who have fought for our nation, we persevere:
For respect for each other, we fight
For unity with one another, we fight
For liberty and justice for all, we fight

This time, I’ll step outside to look up at the sky
A sparkler in hand to enjoy the festivities I’ll try
To sing a new anthem: I am proud to be an American
This is my country to shape and to liberate is my inheritance

What injustice have you seen in your corner of the world? How can you be an advocate for people or groups of people who are disenfranchised or overlooked?

Image via Raisa Zwart Photography