Stepping Stones

Juneteenth in the Shoals

Black people no longer embrace July 4th to celebrate independence.  We celebrate Juneteenth* as the day that all slaves could declare their freedom. A bill was recently signed to commemorate Juneteenth as a federal holiday.  In our tiny towns of the Shoals area of Northwest Alabama, there were numerous celebrations spearheaded by women activists.

Garden Spices pays tribute to the women that led and contributed to the events of Juneteenth, 2021. Thank you for the diligence and service in all you do.  We start our celebration with an exuberant piece from activist Angela Curry, who invited us to celebrate our joy. – Victorine.


Black Joy

When I think of Black Joy,
I can’t help but to reflect on black pain
and all of the reign
of white supremacy.
From the fields and shores of Africa, the middle passage, to the lynching trees,
the babies born in the cotton fields between the knees
of our ancestors.

Ohhhh but the joy…

the joy that gave them the strength,  the fortitude, to see them through.
The joy that gave them the hope of me and of you.
A mixed group of colors, talents, courage, and thought leaders.
All of us coming together,
never forgetting that they lived on the brink
that there would be future liberation.
Can you see them running through the fields…town to town…
telling all who could hear,

“We’s FREE y’all!”

What do you imagine they feel right now
as they look down in their royal garbs
and with their royal crowns
seeing us continue to speak truth to power
as we continue to fight for our freedoms?

Freedoms that are supposed to be commonplace
and actually are
if you have a white male with a heterosexual/cisgender face.
We will live and die pursuing freedom for today
and for future generations.
So guess what?


You’d better take care of yourself and
keep you some joy in your pocket and hope in your soul!
Walk on that beach, take that day off,
let the fingers from a nice massage roll across your back,
pull that motorcycle out of that garage,
let the wind blow through your locks,
soak in the tub, go shop
for some ROCKS


Fuel your joy with self-care.
Laughter, music, yoga, meditation, prayer,
art, dance, and soul food.
Babies coos and old school romance


Whatever self-care nurtures your soul, pursue it
just as hard as you protest
on the stroll to liberation.

While we fight for the police to take their foot off of our neck,
keep some Black joy on deck.
Keep some joy in your pocket and love in your soul.

Be Free.

Angela Curry

Angela Curry is a Syracuse, NY native who grew up in Jacksonville, FL, and has lived her entire adult life in Huntsville, Alabama. A former AAMU bulldog, Angela is a graduate of UAH with a degree in political science. As a mother and a grandmother, Angela is founder and executive director of United Women of Color, a 501c3 nonprofit which unites different ethnicities to empower the lives of women, girls, and their families. She is also the lead liaison of the nonprofit’s advocacy group, the Citizens Coalition for Justice Reform (CCJR), an initiative to transform policing in North Alabama, beginning in Huntsville.



Camille Bennett

Camille Bennett is Founder /Executive Director of PROJECT SAY SOMETHING, a 501c3,501c4 org.  confronting racial injustice through Black history by using communication, education, and community empowerment to reconcile the past with the present.  She opened the door to celebrating Juneteenth in Florence, 2019.  After yielding to COVID safety in 2020, PSS and Reclaiming Our Time co-sponsored a Block Party celebrating Black emancipation.

Unique Morgan Dunston

Unique Morgan Dunston is the Founder of Reclaiming Our Time, a movement formed to address and remove the racist symbols in Albertville, AL. She was responsible for promoting the Block Party event.

Project Say Something and Reclaiming Our Time co-sponsored a Juneteenth Block Party in front of the Lauderdale County Courthouse and Court Street, where protesting has taken place for over a year.  This event featured singers, speakers, and the spirit was high.

The images below show the importance of teaching history and celebration – the children.  Beyond the music, singers, speakers, the children ruled the Block Party!!

Look to the children.  The Dance Contest.  Photo by Linda Kennedy

Juneteenth poster created by Focus Scope Summer Camp kids. Photo by Phil Abrams

Reclaiming Our Time sponsored a Photo Booth. Unique’s mom, Elizabeth Ann Stewart, is the model. Photo by Audrey Matthews

Law student, Airon Shaw, was responsible for coordinating the event for PSS

Melissa Hardin

Melissa Hardin is President & CoFounder of Jammin4Justice 501c3 agency BELL Initiative: *business /entrepreneurship ownership *education in music *legal injustices *LIT (learn, implement, teach) for youth. 

J4J’s first Juneteenth celebration took place in 2020, and continued to grow into a dynamic performance of entertainment and joy in 2021.

Sha’na Gatrey

Sha’na Gatrey is a CoFounder of Jammin4Justice . (See above).   Also a singer, she performed at both Juneteenth events.



Cars, food, and fun!  Jammin4Justice celebrated men with a car show. There were food vendors, from soul food to African fare.

This Drum Circle, led by Que Simpson, symbolized the power of community celebration.

These were just two of the many activities at Jammin4Justice! There were great vendors, businesses, entertainment, and a big sendoff with the band, The Midnighters.

Featured image:  Laia Mitchell who (according to her mom),loves to dance and sing and is very outspoken. Photo: Audrey Matthews

*Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, the slaves of Texas learned that they were free. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19th that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.

On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official state holiday in Texas through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African American state legislator. The successful passage of this bill marked Juneteenth as the first emancipation celebration granted official state recognition.