Category Archives: Billie’s Blog

Billie’s blog: June 2021

Juneteenth – How Black People Celebrate Freedom

by Billie Wade, guest blogger

June 2021 – Juneteenth, June 19, is a joyous day for Black Americans for it ended slavery in the United States. On this day in 1865—more than two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation—General Gordon Granger read to enslaved people in Galveston, Texas “General Order No. 3.” The words of the order declared: “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.” This simple statement freed 250,000 slaves. The Declaration of Independence dated July 4, 1776, and signed August 2, 1776, did not declare freedom for what would multiply to almost 700,000 slaves in 1790.

Newly freed slaves immediately celebrated. On June 19, 1866, freedmen in Texas organized the first formal celebration, then called “Jubilee Day.” Over the years, Juneteenth celebrations have included music, barbecues, prayer services, parades, and other activities. Juneteenth spread to other regions of the country as Black people moved from Texas.

Juneteenth, thought to be the oldest African American holiday, is the melding of “June” and “nineteenth.” In 1979, Texas became the first state to decree Juneteenth an official holiday. Today, 47 states recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday, while efforts to make it a national holiday have so far stalled in Congress.

The Emancipation Proclamation signed January 1, 1863, which provided in part, “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free,” freed only those slaves in Confederate States. When Northern forces marched into the South, numerous slaves fled to safety behind Union lines. Despite the order, some slaveowners suppressed the news until harvesting was done. On December 6, 1865, with ratification of the 13th Amendment, the institution of slavery in the United States was officially abolished.

President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation with some trepidation. He believed Black men should have the right to improve their lives and enjoy the rewards of their endeavors which equaled them to White men. However, he opposed absolute equality. In a September 18, 1858, debate with U. S. Senate opponent Stephen Douglas, he admitted that he was not nor ever had been in favor of social and political equality for Black and White people.

Mr. Lincoln went on to say he was against Black people having the right to vote, to sit on juries, to hold public office, and to marry White people. His biggest hurdle, though, was the endorsement of slavery by the U. S. Constitution which included clauses governing fugitive slaves and the clause defining slaves as three-fifths human. At one time, Lincoln considered removing Black people from the country and colonizing them in various locations in Africa which angered Black leaders and advocates. He said because of the racial differences and the hostilities of White people toward Black people it would be better if the races were separated. Little has changed in the past 156 years. When White people become uncomfortable, Black people must go away in all the many forms that happens in this country.

Although limited, the Emancipation Proclamation indicated a critical change in Lincoln’s mindset regarding slavery and the Civil War. Approximately 200,000 Black men served the Union Army and Navy landing a deadly strike against slavery and opening the door for abolition declared by the 13th Amendment.

Important dates in Iowa:

On March 22, 2021, the City of Des Moines announced Juneteenth is now an official City holiday. City offices and buildings will be closed on June 19 or the adjacent weekday to the date. Scott Sanders, City manager stated. “We hope by commemorating this date, we can better illustrate the significance of Juneteenth and generate greater recognition throughout our community and the state.”

June 19, 2015, Iowa Public Television, known as Iowa PBS as of January 1, 2020, presented “2015 Juneteenth Jamboree” produced by PBS station KRLU of Austin, Texas which included mention of the Iowa Juneteenth Observance.

On February 26, 2015, the Iowa House of Representatives adopted House Resolution 11(HR11) which stated, in part, “Be it resolved by the House of Representatives, that the House of Representatives acknowledges the 25th Anniversary of the Iowa Juneteenth Observance and recognizes the significant role of the Iowa Juneteenth Observance in serving as cultural and historical asset to Iowa’s citizens.”

On February 23, 2015, the Iowa Juneteenth Observance transferred to the Iowa State Historical Society (Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs) articles to be included in permanent museum collection records. They are used to strengthen the Juneteenth exhibit in the State Historical Museum of Iowa.

On April 11, 2002, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, currently serving as the United States Secretary of Agriculture, signed into law the official observance of Juneteenth on the third Saturday in June.

Information for this year’s Juneteenth Observance is highlighted by DSM USA of the Greater Des Moines Partnership.

Enjoy.

For more blog posts from Billie Wade: www.dmpcc.org/Billie

Billie’s blog: February 2021

An invitation to sit with your discomfort, allow it to speak to you

Billie Wade, writer

by Billie Wade, PrairieFire graduate

February 2021 – This post heralds a new dawn: addressing the cold, hard reality of racism. I use the term “dawn” to signify the raw truth that for over four hundred years, we remain at the gate of facing and reckoning with racism. Racism, fueled by hate, greed, and fear, is firmly entrenched in our country’s DNA like the pink stain in a plastic refrigerator dish after the spaghetti sauce is removed. We begin where we are, which is always a new place even if we have had a similar experience in the past. Our feelings are cumulative. It is how wisdom is earned.

Since July 2017, I have enjoyed the honor and privilege to share with you a variety of topics and my experience and perspective. As a Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center client for many years, I feel the mission, vision, and values in the environment every time I enter the doors. Now with our interactions on Zoom, those tenets continue to shine through. The Center seeks to understand the clients they serve, and to reach out to underserved demographics. With that said, I now turn my focus to the insidious organism of racism and the trauma of intergenerational Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that remains alive and thriving in 2021.

On May 30, 2020, in response to the brutal, flaunting murder of George Floyd and the attack that murdered Breonna Taylor, the Center put voice to their compassion and solidarity with the Black community. The antiracism statement on the landing page of the website announced formation of the Antiracism Learning Group*. I am delighted and humbled to cofacilitate the group with Terri Speirs, the Center’s director of community relations.

I will use several terms often in my writing. My working definitions are:

  • Racism—a system consisting of rules, laws, policies, and practices designed to disenfranchise nonwhite people. The organism systematically perpetuates the unfounded belief that Black people are inferior and, therefore, suitable for subjugation and exploitation.
  • “I, we, and Black people”—descendants of slaves brought to this country in 1619.
  • “White people”—the collective of members of the privileged race in the United States.
  • White privilege—perks given to White people because of the color of their skin.
  • Appropriation—the use by one culture of the accoutrements of another culture, particularly while forbidding the appropriated culture to enjoy those accoutrements.

Racism began when White people laid eyes on native Africans and deemed them nonhuman. They kidnapped the people and brought them to this country stripped of everything—clothing, dignity, rituals, language, spirituality, family, friends, culture, all human rights—in chains stacked like ears of corn in the holds of cargo ships. Those who died were unceremoniously thrown overboard. Upon arrival in America, families were separated, never to see each other again.

Black people face a plethora of stressors every minute of every day. We are hated, hunted, and profiled. We live in a country where Black and Brown bodies are killed on suspicion of criminality by walking on a street with our hands in our pockets. Where a “routine” traffic stop may end our life. Where laws and policies directed at oppressing us are enacted without our knowledge and input. Policies and laws enacted to support and liberate Black people are swiftly met with counter laws that cancel out the advancement. Case in point: The so-called “war on drugs” is a war on Black people. The drug war is waged only in Black communities. The shop owner called police because he suspected George Floyd may have been attempting to pass a counterfeit $20.00 bill. Why did the situation call for four officers?

The medical and mental health fields acted with remarkable swiftness to address the opioid crisis. Middle- and upper-class White women comprised the largest demographic. They were offered treatment, mental health services, and resources. Their plight was blamed on a highly addictive drug. Black people who are addicted to drugs are labeled criminals (because they are in possession of the drug), drug addicts, and morally deficient.

Some of the material may be hard for you to receive. I encourage you to try to sit with your feelings and discomfort and allow them to speak to you. The discomfort is there for a reason. “What belief is this revelation rubbing up against?” The most potent question to ask yourself is, “How can I see this differently?” If you have a spiritual aspect in your life, you can ask that Power to help you see differently. Once we know something, we can no longer ignore its existence. Then, we bump into the question, “What can I do? I’m but one person and the landscape of racism is enormous.” This appeal is not easily answered. I hope to offer you resources you can explore.

Black people in the United States exist as a “gray” caricature of two disparate societies with clashing ideals and rules. The White collective expects us to adhere to their established cultural norms but to never make the mistake of forgetting our “place” on the human hierarchy—on the sidewalk leading to the ladder, not even close.

I have spent my life trying to maintain balance between the worlds of the Black collective and the White collective. Black people accuse me of imitating White people, of trying to be White. On the other hand, White people see me as friendly and intelligent—and Black. I have been denied raises, promotions, job flexibility to return to school, and subjected to blatant lies.

Everything I share does not apply to all people in every situation. Humans are hardwired with their own set of idiosyncrasies, perspectives, and ways of receiving new information, derived from experience. I make no attempt to address all White people as racist nor all Black people into a single category. With that said, I hope you use discernment to consider the statements I offer and examine your beliefs rather than dismissing a point as “it doesn’t apply to me.”

Much has happened during the past nine months—giant corporations drafted public antiracism statements and policies and enacted procedures to follow through; ordinary citizens created book clubs and discussion groups; people backed “Black Lives Matter” with yard signs, sweaters, and other wearables; churches hung banners on their exterior walls to declare their solidarity; we elected Kamala Harris, the first female, nonwhite vice president of the United States. Black people do have allies who sincerely offer compassion and generosity of time, energy, and resources. People who listen to us, really try to hear what we are not saying as well as what we do say.

We need White people to take the time to ask what we need. We need White people to become sensitive to the intergenerational effects of PTSD. Yes, we desperately need equal opportunities for and access to education, employment, housing, medical and mental healthcare, political and governmental participation and representation, and beneficial networks. We cannot attain these human rights and privileges without help. The media exposes us to the symptoms rather than the disease. As such, I commend all of you, and everyone on the front lines of supporting Black people. Please know you are appreciated.

There remains much to do to address more than four hundred years of racism. While we can view the glimmer of hope, to exhale and say we have arrived is a mistake. A quick fix does not exist. White supremacists push back to maintain the oppression and marginalization. They wait in the background ready to pounce at a moment’s notice.

Over the next month, I challenge you to the following exercise:

  • What do I believe about Black people—not what you want to believe? Write your answers in a notebook to get them out in front of you, out into the open, where you can see them in stark reality.
  • How did I arrive at those beliefs?
  • What proof do I have as the validity of those beliefs?
  • You need share your responses as you feel comfortable. I do not recommend doing so if you feel unsafe.

May your days, weeks, and months unfold in health, safety, joy, and peace.

More from Billie’s blog: www.dmpcc.org/Billie

*If you are interested in joining the anti-racism learning group, please email tspeirs@dmpcc.org

Billie’s blog: Celebrate What’s Important in 2021: You!

by Billie Wade

January 2021 — I recall attaining a major goal and the urge to run into the street screaming and flailing my arms. Fortunately, reality tapped me on the shoulder immediately. Achievement feels good and even more so when someone acknowledges our effort. Recognition gives us the energy and enthusiasm of boosted self-confidence for the next step of the journey. And away we go, having lunged into our goal or milestone, we are off to the next without so much as checking to see if our shoelaces are still tied. Over time we wear down, feeling overwhelmed, burnt out, and ineffective. The “new and exciting” activities of going after our vision become tedious chores. We ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this? It’s all so pointless. Nobody else will even care.” Mistakes, inevitable though they are, become shrouds of failure. When we live with one or more mental health diagnoses, both the pleasant and the unpleasant of successful living may bat us back and forth like a ping pong ball. One way to help ease the anxiety and balance our experiences is self-celebration.

Self-celebration gets you off the gerbil wheel for a while. You exhale the tension of focused striving. You catch your breath and let it come naturally. You inhale the next breath for strength to grab the baton and begin the next leg of the journey. With that new, raw energy comes increased belief in yourself and what you are setting out to do. When you celebrate yourself—who you are, what you have endured, your achievements, and what you have overcome—you make a profound statement to yourself that you are valuable unconditionally because of your existence. Celebration sets you up for an amazing range of feelings and physical responses. Joy. Delight. Awe. Wonder. Giggles. Laughter. Grins. Smirks. Amusement. And even eye rolling. People who are particularly body-sensitive may feel their body “laughing or singing, or other sensations.”

Self-celebration makes you your Number One Fan. You are a priceless synergy of traits, skills, and wisdom. Your unique quirkiness makes you who you are. You enrich the world with all you do. When you are joyful, you infuse your life with magnetic cheer, and you spread it to those around you. Joy is free. Joy is contagious. Joy is an expression of profound gratitude. Abilities are common in three forms: innate, learned through deliberate study, and acquired through experience—think of the wisdom and insight you have gained in the School of Life. Ironically, your most emotionally painful experiences contain the richest wisdom. They illuminate your courage, resourcefulness, and resilience, Celebrate them.

Early on in self-celebration you may worry about sounding arrogant and unappreciative. You may have learned, as I did, at a young age bragging is a bad practice to start, so bad you could get “the look” or dispatched upstairs to clean your room. However, when you embark on a new endeavor which requires the approval of others, you receive a set of “have tos. ”You have to sell yourself. You have to toot your own horn. You have to convince ‘them’ you are the best.” These instructions, while meant to encourage you, can confuse you about when you can be proud of yourself and when it is not a good idea.

When sharing your good news invite others in by leading with your feelings, such as, “I have great news to share with you,” or “I am so happy. I can hardly wait to tell you…” or “I did it! I finally made it. ”Share the spotlight if someone helped you. Consider the people you trust. You may need to share with different people in a revved up or subdued manner. If your sister is your number one fan, pour on the exuberance. If your neighbor frowns on everything you do, approach sharing the news with a little caution, if telling the person is necessary.

So, what do you do? First, remember you are the ONLY person with you 24/7. So, you are the only person who truly knows the intensity of your efforts. Waiting for someone else to congratulate you may take a long time, or not come at all. While this can be hurtful, you can celebrate yourself and even invite others to join you. Get ready for self-celebration by engaging a conscious awareness of activities you enjoy and/or do well and your achievements. I have a running list of my accomplishments to which I add as needed. The notebook pages are made from stone paper—that’s right, paper made from stone! I titled the notebook “Etched in Stone” to help me remember my ability to contribute to my dreams and to the world in which I live. Self-celebration is a gift to yourself you can enjoy regardless of the presence of others.

Sometimes, you may have to shut down the critical voices yammering at you whether the person(s) is(are) sitting in the same room with you or the voice is from a memory. If self-celebration is daunting for you, talk to someone you trust—therapist, primary care provider, religious leader, spiritual director, friend, or family member. Des Moines Pastoral Counseling Center is here for you. Clinicians offering a vast array of support and guidance welcome you. To begin your journey toward healing, click here. See my article, “How To Choose A Therapist” (August, 2020)

I usually emphasize that a fancy journal is unnecessary. For self-celebration, however, I encourage you to find a journal that makes you smile and want to snuggle or that makes you feel powerful. It does not matter if you purchase your journal at a dollar store or at a bookstore in the mall. Or, if you are crafty, create a journal and embellish the cover and give your journal a name or title. The importance is in how the journal makes you feel each time you write. Stock up on colorful ink pens, pencils, and highlighters, and glitter. Use whatever color fits your mood at the time or color-code your entries.

Several years ago, I bought a charming journal based entirely on its visual appeal: a top-down image of a dragonfly set against a multi-color background. The nubby-textured brown-gray cover welcomed the dragonfly in without swallowing it. I liked the satiny feel of the muted green-grey pages, with a dragonfly in an upper corner of each page, perfect for brown ink. If you have not tried brown ink, I encourage you to do so. The journal lay in a drawer with other to-be-used-one-of-these-days companions while I waited for the “perfect” theme, that moment of worthiness of such a delightful book.

On June 9, 2020, I wrote the first entry: to dedicate my Dragonfly Journal to my emotional health and evolution. I claimed my dignity as a human being, proud of my abilities, innate as well as learned. I declared my intention to write only good stuff—Gifts of the Day, affirmations, mantras. Envision gratitude on steroids with lots of friends. All entries are positive words. Such as, “I safely arrived to and from all my destinations today,” rather than, “I didn’t have any traffic or shopping problems.” This was a bit tricky at first. The exercise helped me redefine my experiences and self-messages. I had to create a new vocabulary.

Here are some tips for Celebrating Wonderful You every day.

  • Use your celebration journal ONLY for the good stuff—unexpected acts of generosity, great parking spaces, getting home fifteen minutes before the thunderstorm rumbled overhead, a medical appointment with good news. Use your regular journal for working through experiences, problem-solving, and exploring your thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
  • Write a list of everything you do well or love doing—from “I like the way I fold bath towels to I am an accomplished, respected astrophysicist with twenty years of experience”. Or, perhaps, you were present for a friend or completed an intense training. Be sure to number them so you can see the magnitude of your achievements, in quality as well as quantity.
  • Pause at least ten seconds between each item—set a timer if necessary—and sink into the pleasure of the moment.
  • Write just enough description that you will fully recall the experience when you reread the entry.
  • Each day, write at least one entry that expresses a minimum of five Gifts of the Day–more powerful than “Things I’m grateful for.” You will have so many Gifts on some days, remembering them all will be a challenge. That’s a good thing, a very good thing. Carry a small notebook with you always.
  • Use your social media or videoconferencing platform if you deem it appropriate.
  • If you have a videoconferencing account open a meeting and host a one-on-one session with yourself, with or without the video feature on.
  • Celebrate yourself as often as you want, anytime, anywhere. You do not have to say a word out loud, but I encourage you to do so. Hearing praise directed at you in your own voice can be quite powerful. Record it on your phone or computer and replay it whenever you need a boost
  • Celebrate your achievement repeatedly for as long as you like—just a smile is a celebration, an affirmation, a statement of enjoyment, about yourself. Sometimes, an inner smile is all you need.
  • Apply the wisdom of reaching your goal to the rest of your life.
  • Revisit your entries when you need a boost of confidence and say, “Wow, I rock!”

We continually seek meaning and fulfillment from our experiences. The achieving can sometimes overshadow the achievement. When we take time to be mindful and appreciative of the journey on our way to the destination, we invite meaning and fulfillment into the doing, which slows down the frenetic pace and sets us on a path of discovery as we achieve. In this respect, the journey is the goal as much as the destination. We do not have to be shy or embarrassed about who we are and what we do to live our life in fullness and contribute to the world in which we live, whatever that looks like for each of us.

Achieve. Enjoy. Celebrate. Repeat.

Billie’s blog index: www.dmpcc.org/Billie