Juneteenth is For All of Us: A Letter to the African Diaspora

May 1865: when the United States began to rebuild from the rubble of the Civil War. Two months later, African-American slaves started to create a new existence entirely from scratch, after 246 years of being told they weren’t humans, let alone citizens of the country they lived in.

That’s why some black Americans decide to mark Juneteenth as the beginning of their culture and identity. It’s the beginning of establishing the community and resources black people would use to navigate the newfound freedom not experienced in over 240 years. 

But it wasn’t the beginning of their legacy, and definitely not where they should begin reclaiming the inheritance they’re owed.

This post is sponsored by AudioBooks Now. Click the banner below and search for books on the history of the African diaspora, including those at the end of this article.


June 19, 1865, also known as Juneteenth, was the day African-American slaves in Galveston, Texas learned that the Union Army (under President Abraham Lincoln) declared them free from chattel slavery. That meant that black slaves, their children, and future generations to come, were no longer forced to work on plantations for white masters. Then, it was six months later (December 1865) that the U.S. Constitution officially recognized slavery as illegal. Then, it took another three years (July 9, 1868) for the U.S. government to recognize African-Americans who were former slaves as American citizens with full “equal protection of the laws.”

Laying out this timeline is very important, especially for my African brothers and sisters. This illustration is for you, those whose families lived and still live on the continent. It’s important to realize what this timeline, and everything that followed, symbolizes for us.

African-Americans were only “free-ish” on that date, June 19th. And even after the July 9th ratification of laws granting citizenship, there was a century of legalized abuse and death threats that still haunts black Americans today.

This is where the conversation (or celebration, if you want to call it that) should start. This isn’t just for black America— it’s for all of us whose skin is black because our roots go back to the African continent.

In 1860, a ship called the Clotilda illegally brought the last group of African slaves to the U.S. state of Alabama (ironically one year before the Civil War, which ended slavery in America, started). That means that, as early as five years before Juneteenth, there were people who only knew Africa as their home living on American soil.

They, along with the nearly 4 million other black slaves already there, had to find the courage to create new homes in a strange land. They had to possess the foresight to know that while there wasn’t a way out of America, they’d have to find a path to generational prosperity. It was the Hiram Revels (first African-American senator), The Freedmen’s Bureau, and the founders of African Town that laid the foundation for any future person with black skin living in America to build on.

It’s a foundation that both African Americans and African immigrants get to benefit from today, regardless of when they set foot on this so-called Promised Land. A wave of West Africans began to emigrate to the U.S. in the 1980s, 112 years after the Reconstruction, suffrage, and civil rights battles that provided the framework the newly arrived could profit from. It’s in the historically black districts of Harlem (New York) and Bronzeville (Chicago) that first welcomed African immigrants, and gave them space to open restaurants, hair salons, and grocery stores that would be their financial lifeline. It was the years of sit-ins, petitions, and even uprisings that also gave African immigrants access (however limited) to the social welfare services they desperately depend on to get by.

If we’re going to celebrate Juneteenth the right way, let’s do it by remembering not our “freedom” but our rebirth. We’ve always been free people; that freedom was interrupted. Juneteenth was the first time our oppressors had to surrender what they’d stolen, what was ours to begin with.

And to celebrate it the right way, we have to remember that Juneteenth represents the reckoning our shared oppressor would have to face for more years to come. We can’t forget, in the words of Ilyasah Shabazz, the “denial of the African holocaust” that happened on African and American soil. And we can’t forget that the liberation in the Americas inspired the fight for liberation that would come in the African colonies.

Today, some of the most vulnerable African countries— specifically the DRC, Angola, Mozambique, and Sudan— received more in remittances (money sent abroad) than they did in 1980. The U.S. remains the top country since 2000 sending those remittances. In other words, even today, all members of the African diaspora depend on each other for refuge (literally and figuratively).

The largest African communities are in the South, including states like Texas, Maryland, and Virginia— states where slavery was once legal. If it’s not clear yet, the African community owes the history of their black American cousins the reverence it deserves every Juneteenth. Similarly, if you’re a black descent of slaves, it’s to your benefit to start your Juneteenth celebration honoring who your ancestors really were: enslaved architects, mathematicians, landowners…free men and women with a country that was theirs from the beginning of time.

Let Juneteenth be a celebration of a renewed sense of family, and a reminder to do the work necessary to make that connection across the African diaspora real, strong and clear.

Audiobooks on the history of the African diaspora (sponsored by AudiobooksNow

60 Day Free Tail (Promo Code: PJ2M)

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi

Destruction of Black Civilization by Chancellor Williams

Roots by Alex Haley

Nowhere is Safe: Microaggressions, Working from Home & Being Black in America

The physical pain of working in a physical office was real. I had heart palpitations every time I sat at my desk. I’d use any excuse to take meetings over conference calls rather than in person. Most sick days were really mental health days, just to avoid the office tension. Because even though no one said it aloud, people were always noticing me, and judging me from the moment I walked in until the moment I left.

COVID-19 gave me the best excuse yet to work from home. After years of doctor’s appointments, prescriptions, and prayers for healing, it’s probably time to celebrate. Yet, the more things change in this “new normal” we’re living in, the more (bad) things seem to stay the same. The past two months gave me false hope that hiding in my house, working from home with my white-collar job, would shield me from that danger.

Recent riots and protests in response to the killing of black people are just the culmination of little fires happening everywhere. These sparks fly every time a black person and people in positions of power clash, and it’s not just at the hands of police.

Gallup recently published a poll that found 62% of workers surveyed in the U.S. want to keep working from home, even after the current pandemic ends. I have no idea if it’s for the same reasons I have, and that’s a problem. 

The way the data was presented and (likely) collected sadly won’t help us fully weigh the benefits and danger work-from-home (WFH) culture will have specifically in a country with one of the worst track records for creating safe spaces for people of color. A huge red flag in the Gallup poll is the lack of any disaggregated data by race or gender. Giving us the most basic analysis shows how the voices of some are either made invisible or insignificant.

Not asking how many of the 2,276 Americans surveyed were black, and what percentage of black/brown folks made up the 62% excited about WFH, is a perfect example of the toxic root of all physical and psychic violence against black people— microaggressions.

Microaggressions are already “difficult to spot” because they’re meant to be more subtle forms of racism, like complimenting the way a black person talks or questioning a black executive’s credentials for a job. Examples of microaggression range from clutching one’s purse as a black man approaches, to not including people of color in positions of leadership or the decision-making process. They give off a vibe that people of color will just accept or deal with what the powers-that-be decide is best for the company (or country). 

We can’t underestimate how dangerous microaggressions are. The fear of a black man stepping on to an office building elevator set off one of the worse massacres of black citizens in U.S. history.

Social distancing can’t stop that mindset from spreading. If anything, social distancing is the perfect environment to ignore the presence of staff of color. And, for the more aggressive microaggressor, it’s an excuse to use the most invasive surveillance tools to micromanage staff of color, who disproportionately feel the undue pressure to show and prove their value.

Even after this pandemic ends, microaggressive behavior will kill more black and brown employees, literally, than any virus or institutionalized violence. Heart disease is still the leading cause of death for African Americans, based on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website. “People who are recipients of greater amounts of microaggressions tend to have poorer physical health. They are likely to have high blood pressure, extreme vigilance that they have to deal with in terms of their autonomic nervous system,” says Columbia University psychology professor Dr. Derald Sue. In a 2018 Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development study, 89% of race-based trauma cases were triggered by “covert acts of racism” (a.k.a., microaggressions).

Along with this clear evidence that racism damages our physical health, a 2019 Havard Business Review survey found that “almost half of black and Latinx respondents had left a job at least partly for mental health reasons, compared with 32% of Caucasian respondents.” 

What does this say about the diversity and inclusion (or D&I) initiatives we rushed into in the “old normal”, just to save face? How effective was closing down shop (like Starbucks) and mandating workshops, or listening to all those TED talks? If we never find out what’s changed or not changed for black people working from home, it’ll be impossible to know whether or not we’re simply exacerbating the problem. 

Add to that the fact that black men and women make up less than 40% of the total entry-level workforce for most office jobs, and that more than half of that 40% are weeded out as you rise the ranks to the C-suite. That means fewer people at the top committing to the cognitive work needed to unlearn microaggressive behavior, work that has to happen every week or once a month, but definitely not once in a blue moon.

I tried my best to process these thoughts and voice them over in the video above. Feel free to comment below on ways you’ve experienced racial trauma in the workplace, and what you’ve seen done that’s made it harder or easier to find safety at work. Also, share if you’re feeling safer since you’ve started working from home. Is there level of protection you sense, as a black employee, when you’re not working within a physical office setting?

Two Stock Tips From Two Bad Decisions | Investing Series

I’m a kinesthetic learner, which means I have this insatiable energy to learn things by doing things. Which means I don’t have the patience to watch videos or listen to someone explain something when I want something right away. Which means I usually do the thing before I should and make some stupid mistakes.

Well, we have more advisors talking about what they did right vs. what they did wrong. But it’s the mistakes that lead you to the tips you wouldn’t investigate unless you had to get yourself out of trouble. So at the risk of embarrassing myself, let’s save you some time and headache with the list of mistakes I made so you wouldn’t have to 😊.

Luckily, my portfolio’s been outperforming the Dow Jones Industrial Average for at least the last month (I’m the green line below).

But when you’re dealing with rapid ups and downs and uncertainty of what’s going to happen next, it’s critical to make every dollar invested count in your favor.

It’s never a bad time to invest during a recession, if you have the means to do it. I got a little too eager, though, and missed some rare chances to make enormously more than I’d invest…and then I overcorrected and put myself in an unnecessary hole that left me doubting my ability to keep the momentum.

Here are the ways that happened, and how I’m getting back on track regardless:

  1. I didn’t explore all my options with options.

Options contracts offer you the opportunity to buy or sell minimum shares of a stock at a specific price (relatively cheaper than buying stock through a direct purchase).

Options are like coupons you have to pay back for playing a slot machine. No matter how much of a certain data you have on company stock, there’s never a guarantee that everything lines up the way you think it will when the reel stops spinning.

I bet on an option for a company (see below) only after I had solid evidence of something that would make its profitability skyrocket in the near future. I even waited to watch the stock price move either up or down after a major news announcement to make sure I had more than a hunch about its potential.

What I did:

I made the most rookie mistake ever because I was too lazy to do my research. I paid no attention to pretty bad penalties for holding an option that expires worthless…

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With All Due Respect…Grow Up: Open Letter to African Leadership

There’s an old parenting adage that says if your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?

As much as my 12-year-old self cringed when I heard it, my now 30-something year-old self has to admit that my mom was right. You don’t need to copy everything your friends or peers do or tell you to do.

African leaders would be wise to take this same advice. Amid this COVID-19 crisis, many new buzzwords abound like “flatten the curve” and “social distancing”. It’s no question that we all need to take actions to reduce if not prevent the peak of the virus’ spread, but quick research will tell you that social distancing (used usually to describe isolating in one’s home indefinitely) is not the one and only method for achieving this.

Evidence from South Korea proves the point. Yet most African nations decided to mimic Europe and the U.S. by mandating citizens to stay at home and close all non-essential businesses to contain the contagious disease. 

Now I’ve never been president of a country, and the extent of my public health service ends at coughing into my elbow. But that’s what makes this more frightening – that a basic person like me can immediately see the problem here. One of the basic qualities missing in African leadership is the instinct to make data-driven decisions. 

We have a habit of watching what the “cool kids” are doing (i.e. the West) and just copying exactly what they do. We pay no attention to context or to designing solutions that work in our best interest. It’s like we’re trying so hard to impress, hoping the West is flattered more by our imitation rather than our efficacy.

I was triggered to write this by an op-ed published recently by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the latest adoptee of the Western powers-that-be who look for a poster child to represent their ideal Africa. I don’t hold any bad feelings towards Ahmed. However, I got uncomfortable reading his piece for a couple of reasons.

The first had to do with tone. Frankly, I’m tired of us playing to this notion of African countries being helpless unless the mightier “developed” countries pity us. Ahmed wrote, “African

countries…lack the wherewithal to make similarly meaningful interventions” mitigating the consequences of the coronavirus spread, and that “the G20 must provide collective leadership” as one of the most pressing solutions to the crisis.

Meanwhile, the G20 consists majorly of Eurocentric nations (including U.S., UK, and Germany) and just one African country (South Africa), an anomalous representative of the continent for reasons not beneficial in situations like this.

It worries me that prominent leaders or Nobel laureates would make the rookie mistake of discussing Africa as a monolith, rather than 54 independent states with nuanced environments. The way a pandemic hits South Africa will be very different from the damage it does in the Central African Republic.

So if the Prime Minister is suggesting that South Africa be the mouthpiece for the continent at the metaphorical cool kids’ table (i.e the G20), that suggestion is myopic in that the one country cannot comprehensively speak on a strategy that best prepares all of Africa for this type of public health/economic disruption. 

And if he’s suggesting that the G20 as a whole be the global mouthpiece for how to prep for situations like this, he’s jumping off the bridge with friends, just because they say so.

Recommendations like the one from the Prime Minister jump the gun, bypassing the most pressing first ask anyone should really make: what can African leaders do for themselves with what they have NOW?

We can admit that, historically, the Western world is the lead culprit for putting African nations in a vulnerable position financially and politically. TLDR, watch this great documentary on that issue. 

But that does not absolve the faults of African leaders.

By faults, I’m not just referring to that deference African leaders show to the West or African leaders’ inexcusable mistreatment of their citizens. Those aside, logic would suggest that the developed world would see how neglecting public health strategies in African nations would eventually have an impact on them, given the growth of globalized trade and travel.

How many times has the West proven that common sense isn’t so common? We have undeniable evidence in the way the United States (now the epicenter of COVID-19) wasn’t prepared to prevent or manage the stress of a deadly contagion on its healthcare system.

So when the cool kids are busy getting themselves out of trouble, what do we (Africa) do? Twiddle our thumbs, or use our own brains to self-regulate?

It’s fair to continue demanding relief from what essentially equates to predatory loan agreements keeping African countries crippled with debt. But until that utopian moment when the West stops asking us for our lunch money, African heads of state need to examine their own insecurities and, frankly, find the maturity to hold themselves accountable for what they know needs to be done.

For example, South Africa has had an ongoing debate about providing universal healthcare to its 57 million population for 13 years. The biggest concern? Not how much it will cost, or where the funding will come. It’s whether South Africa’s leadership has the self-control to not pocket the funds for themselves as they did with the country’s National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS).

Here’s another wise quote, taken from India’s assassinated prime minister Indira Gandhi:

“Beware of ministers who can do nothing without money, and those who want to do everything with money.”

I’m not naive to think that Africa doesn’t have a SERIOUS cash problem created by colonialism. But I’m wary of those who keep trying to guilt-trip the West into charity. Especially when they refuse to ask why Africa hasn’t learned how to walk on its own two feet.

What do you think?

I’m thinking of starting a business of my own that solves this problem.

I feel the same way — tired of lower standards that keep Africans at risk economically.

I don’t think you’re seeing the full picture, and I have a different point of view.