Stories are and have been written about ninety-four-year-old Ms. Opal Lee and the lead-up to the signing of the bill declaring Juneteenth [June 19th] a holiday. Due partially to her dedication in 2016, the then 89-year-old, committed to walking two and a half miles in each of the states that welcomed her participation, wearing out her sneakers, celebrating her efforts, and the commemorations of Juneteenth. It culminated in her marching into the White House yesterday to see the fruits of her honorable marathon. Following the commensurate speeches by the first black and woman Vice President, Kamala Harris, and President Biden, Ms. Lee rose from her front-row seat and stepped up to her destiny. Standing alongside the Vice President and gazed upon admiringly by Rep. James Clyburn, and a black Senator from one of the cradles of the south—Georgia—Senator Raphael Warnock is another sign of how America is politically correcting itself.
Ms. Lee, slightly stooped, stood among the luminaries—assisted by Kamala Harris. It seemed as if had Ms. Harris let her go, she would have floated. She beamed with a pride that people like me remember from our youth when we listened to our grandparents talk about Joe Lewis defeating Nazism in the ring, or Jesse Owens running past Aryan supremacy, and Jackie Robinson outshining the diamond he toiled on. Ms. Lee, an American hero, tightened her fist as she approached the desk where Mr. Biden would sign her dream into reality, not out of resentment but triumph. Could I not help but think that the weight of the years of tragedy, repression, and oppression, suffered in her Texas childhood, lifted off her shoulders as she raised her hand to receive the President’s greeting?
Seeing her lips move as if she were prompting President Biden when he recounted the history of her life and works made it obvious that she could remember every moment. At one point Mr. Biden made a joke reversing her age and saying she was forty-nine to which she proudly pointed out her age was ninety-four. One could see the little girl that squealed in fear when her home burned as a twelve-year-old, turn into internalized elder squeals of victory. Having the commemoration of Juneteenth signed into law by the man who described the first black President’s signature law, the Affordable Care Act, as a Big-F’ n-Deal; it seems apropos to say for ninety-four-year-old Ms. Opal Lee, this was a B-F-D (pardon me Ms. Lee) in her emotionally scarred, but well-lived life.
You had better believe right-wing hateful blogs are sharpening their bigoted quills because Mr. Biden left the stage when Vice President Harris recognized Ms. Lee and knelt before her to whisper a message into her ear. Had this been a white woman the racist would have considered this a kind gesture; not a defeat for the cause they ignorantly imagine. One has to applaud Mr. Biden for realizing and acknowledging her struggle to right a one-hundred, and fifty-six-year-old wrong by honoring her with special recognition from the President of the United States. He was not trying to be politically correct he was using the opportunity to be ‘politically and morally corrected.’
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