Anyla McDonald / Photo by Sounds of the People

As my 79-year-old Uncle Jack and I sat in the living room, watching Good Times and Sanford & Son with peanut butter cookies and banana pudding wrapped in napkins on our laps, he began to reminisce about the times when his great grandpa would tell him about his hardships as a house slave. My great, great grandpa would tell my uncle that he was forced to wear dusty ties, button downs, and slacks; he had to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner for his master, his master’s wife, and their eight children. He was only given the master’s scraps to eat. 

On many occasions, he was even forced to have children with the master's wife. After his master had an increase in runaway slaves, he began to sell off the slaves' babies right after birth — before they were even named, or had a chance for a chest-to-chest connection after leaving their mother’s womb. 

This all went on until one morning at 9am sharp, in the month of June on the 19th day. My great, great grandpa had just woken up and crawled out of his master's barn to see why his master hadn’t woken him up yet. All he could see were thousands of horse hoofprints and slave footprints in the mud. 

On this particular morning, there wasn’t any blood on the cotton or dead skin on the thorns. There weren’t any clumps of hair on the ground. He didn’t hear the other house slaves doing necromancy, sortilege, or divination anymore. He didn’t hear them casting spells, or creating hoodoo potions for their master. As he started to look at the trees in the fields, he spotted flyers. When he got closer, he saw that they read: “Slaves is free! Slaves is free!” At that very instant, my great, great grandpa started to praise and worship his almighty God. He sang songs such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and “Song of the Free” that represented the struggle of bondage and the escape to freedom. 

As he sang these songs, he made his way to the state of Mississippi. He was on a mission to find his lost twin sons, whom he was forced to make with the master's wife. His master had sold them off far away the moment they were born, hating the sight of them. Great, great grandpa traveled for 20 days straight, limping, running, and even sometimes crawling. When he found the boys, they had actually built a house for them to live in! 

They looked just like my great, great grandpa, from head to toe. They were tall like the twin towers, they had nappy hair that was as tough as leather, bodies that were as solid as a rock, eyes that were as bright as a light bulb, and teeth as white as a sheet and sharp as a razor. Their lips were as wide as an apple slice, they had nostrils as big as a penny, and skin as black as coal. 

They were thrilled and delighted to be in their father’s presence. You would’ve thought they had won the lottery. They cried tears of joy. Now, years later, we all live in that same house! Today, we celebrate Juneteenth, and my Uncle Jack has realized that even though his great grandpa had to deal with mental health issues because of his past trauma, he was blessed to end up with twin boys who had children of their own. Two of them attended Howard University and got master’s degrees in biochemistry and gynecology — Uncle Jack is one of them! 

My uncle is at peace with his life. Although he honors the suffering my great, great grandpa went through, Uncle Jack is able to find joy in dancing in the living room with me and his nephews, doing the Harlem Shake and the Michael Jackson Stomp; eating my grandmother's chitlins, caramel cake, and banana bread; sipping on Dr. Pepper with a splash of tequila; watching his favorite show “Greenleaf” playing in the background; ecstatic that he was able to make it to another Juneteenth.

Anyla McDonald / Photo by Taylored Living Magazine

Anyla McDonald aspires to become a poet, short story writer, and essayist speaking about racism against Black people, current world problems, and hot topics. When she writes, she does it with purpose and passion. She feels destined to touch others with her words, and wants to be known as someone who takes a stand and impacts lives with her writing.

Anyla is a columnist for Tumbleweird and an intern at Taylored Living Magazine.