An Important Intergenerational Biography
Opal Lee and What it Means to Be Free, The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth written by Alice Faye Duncan with art by Keturah A. Bobo, published by Tommy Nelson, an imprint of Thomas Nelson.
I was immediately intrigued by the cover art of Opal Lee. Keturah A. Bobo juxtaposes a silhouette of Opa Lee with her younger self. To me, this equally depicts the history behind each generation and showcases how one life affects and motivates another. Young readers will surely be inspired by Opal Lee's story.
For a young reader, opening this book would be like climbing onto the lap of an older relative who has an important family story to tell. But Alice Faye Duncan goes further in her narrative in such a way that readers will feel they are also running around at a family reunion and gathering under a shady tree together. And all together, the children hear Opal Lee recount the historical journey from slavery to the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation (1863) "with a mighty stroke." But the news did not reach slaves in Texas until June 19, 1865 — Juneteenth!
"Freedom, hope, and JOY DIVINE! Juneteenth means it's FREEDOM TIME!"
The text continues its lyrical prose to describe the beauty of Opal Lee's life as a free person, but also the struggles, hardships, and prejudices that never went away. By the end of this picture book, children of all colors are celebrated and seen happily together in Opal Lee's embrace.
"Freedom is for everyone. Freedom is YOU and ME."
Back matter includes a recipe for Juneteenth Punch, a timeline, a more detailed summary of Opal Lee's life and and the movement she created by walking across America collecting signatures on her petition to make Juneteenth a national holiday, as well as a list of sources.
Opal Lee is known to repeat, "No one is free until we are all free, and we aren't free yet."
Look around your classroom, neighborhood, community, or even pages in a magazine. In what places or moments does it seem that everyone is free to do as they please and treated equally? In what ways are some people treated differently? Why might that be? Is it because they look differently or act differently or dress differently or ... ? What reasons would justify that? Is it fair?
Imagine one or more of those situations. Imagine what it would look like and feel like if everyone was treated equally, fairly, no matter any possible differences.
Write a story or draw a picture of what a beautiful life we could all have when we are all free to enjoy it as much as anyone else.