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Kimberly Renee is an internationally recognized social activist noted for her advocacy work, exposing hidden truths in history, and developing initiatives to enhance the lives of persons in historically neglected communities.
Through her social interactions, she narrates stories about little-known historical facts that will undoubtedly impact our perceptions of the history we were taught. Kimberly is gracing us with a narrative on the "grandmother of Juneteenth," Ms. Opal Lee, for Juneteenth.
Did you know this about Juneteenth?
So it’s the evening of June 19, 1939 (Juneteenth)—four days after this Black family has moved into a predominately white neighborhood—and an angry mob of more than 500 white people is gathering in front of their Fort Worth, Texas home.
After discovering the police would be no help, the Flake family takes refuge at a friend’s house.
By morning, they find their home burnt to the ground.
Eighty-two years later, that violent day takes on a new meaning for the Flake daughter as she witnesses the culmination of her decade’s work when Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act in 2021.
Her name? Opal Flake Lee.
Opal is the 96-year-old retired teacher and activist we have to thank for Juneteenth becoming a national holiday.
And, this wasn't some small feat.
‘Cause the last time we added a new federal holiday was in 1983 to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. And that process took fifteen years.
Before 2021, Juneteenth was only a state holiday in Texas.
It was this state’s shores, specifically Galveston Bay, where Union Major General Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3, which punctuated, by military force, the Emancipation Proclamation that had gone into effect in rebel states two and half years earlier.
Granger's federal soldiers and members of the United States Colored Troops would trek by foot and horse many miles across the state to deliver this message of freedom.
More than 150 years later, in 2016, Opal started her own walk—a symbolic one from D.C. to convince legislators to elevate Juneteenth to a national celebration.
She said, “I was thinking that surely, somebody would see a little old lady in tennis shoes trying to get to Congress and notice.”
And they did.
- Kimberly Renee
If you want to learn more about Kimberly Renee and her art, follow her on Instagram at @ITSKIMBERLYRENEE, where she takes you on a tour of little-known historical truths. Kimberly has launched an app with interactive tours called "Black in Time," which combines interactive content series from social media with IRL (in real life). Each tour immerses guests, both virtual and in-person, in a fascinating experience that includes significant areas of interest that spotlight, celebrate, and commemorate black tales from the area. The trip includes an app with careful storytelling built from well-researched history in collaboration with local historians, museums, and other educational organizations. Thank you again to Kimberly for this beautiful piece on Ms. Opal Lee.
Happy Juneteenth from JBW.