Juneteenth is a 157-year holiday that celebrates the liberation of black Americans from slavery. It is also an annual reminder of the systemic racism, oppression and brutality that black people face in America. However, if you want to spend the holidays listening to stories of black empowerment, triumph and purpose, Nakisha Lewis, President and CEO of Breakthrough, a media advocacy organization, has you covered.
Lewis says she has been an advocate for racial justice since she was young, hosting 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 the Congress of Industrial Organizations.
As someone with Caribbean parents, Lewis didn’t grow up celebrating June 19, but realized 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, as a black person being in black spaces, learning more and sharing our black experiences across the diaspora, I I realized we could acknowledge that anyway we wanted to.”
In honor of the legacy of Juneteenth, Lewis says these three books should be at the top of your reading list:
“Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower”
By Britney Cooper
The trope of black women being aggressive is something a lot of people would love to go away. However, Brittney Cooper takes up this stereotype and requalifies it in this collection of essays. By guiding readers through her own personal experiences with the issues facing black women, Cooper demonstrates that “eloquent rage” is a reminder that women don’t have to be complacent and that their passion and fury is what drives them. makes it iconic.
Lewis says this book “aligns with her own journey as a black feminist.”
“I think a lot of people that Brittney and references and mentions made me realize, ‘Yeah, that’s what feminism looks like.’ It also helped me answer the question: How are you? Your purpose, passion, and joy? I think we all have different superpowers, and you need to figure out which is yours. But this journey , she takes us through, you know, it’s just such a different perspective. And I felt like there was a lot of synergy there.
“Not All Boys Are Blue”
By George M. Johnson
This book is a memoir/manifesto about Johnson’s early life as a young gay black man. Addressing young adults, Johnson guides readers through the trials and tribulations he faced as a boy, in addition to the joys he experienced along the way.
“Not All Boys Are Blue” tackles complex topics such as consent, toxic masculinity and gender identity, and Lewis believes this book “broke down barriers” for young black and gay men of color.
“As I Am: A Memoir”
By Cicely Tyson
The late Cicely Tyson is a black community legend for her roles in movies like “Sounder” and TV projects like “Roots.” Although she played many different roles over her 60-year career, her portrayal of a powerful black woman was consistent, earning her the love, respect, and matriarchal status of black women from all walks of life. .
Her memoir walks readers through her life before and after fame, and exposes the pain and hurt she felt as a black woman living in America. Lewis praises Tyson for his authenticity and transparency in sharing his story.
“Looking at the dynamic life she lived, there’s so much that I learned from the book. Literally from the struggles of the early 1900s, to becoming someone who just broke down so many barriers in filmmaking She’s very, very inspiring to me.”
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