Greathouse: Juneteenth and saying no to negativity

Toni Greathouse

Personal power is a by-product of choice. You alone are the mediator over your response to external stimuli. You alone are empowered to choose the direction of the life you want to lead. You alone, give away your personal power when you choose to follow folks who make bad choices. You alone choose to be led to places you probably do not want to go. Regardless, the choice is yours.

This truth is baked into the founding principles of our great nation. It is the ethos unpinning the U.S. Constitution. It is what led to the Emancipation Proclamation. In short, America began as a melting pot. Today it seems to have reached a boiling point. Yet it is wise to remember that we are in the throes of an evolutionary process that strives for perfection. This point was clearly articulated in the preamble of 1789.

“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

America is grounded in the idea that on her soil all humans representing every race, socio-economic background, political, religious and/or sexual orientation will be extended the ability to choose to exert their free will.

Becoming a more perfect union now requires the courage to just say no to negativity. This idea anchors Juneteenth in Joliet and its “edutainment” format which marries elements of education and entertainment to empower participants to think about their thoughts. It is vastly different from other Juneteenth celebrations because the goal is intensely personal. Caricature artists visually guide participants on a journey to backtrack and trace steps to the source of deeply held stereotypes. Artivism (use of art to connect) is unleashed to gain a better understanding of how you feel about race and more importantly why you feel that way.

Please note that unpacking stereotypes stuffed in the closets of our minds is an equal opportunity pursuit. Every race creed and color harbors harmful stereotypes about whomever the group they are most closely affiliated with labels as “the others.” The truth is that we are all interconnected as one human family. The idea that there is a “them” is an illusion, there is only us.

Re-reading what was written, makes this experience sound intense. It is not. It draws on (pun intended) unconventional creativity. It starts by sitting with a caricature artist to “draw-out” an image of your 5-year-old self. This is the age that likely lines the bottom of your racial bag. Since then, you have continually collected, carried and - unconsciously - unpacked dirty laundry over a lifetime. Here’s the thing, racial baggage is stored out of sight. It resides in a private space of your mind. It’s guarded by your mouth and protected by your silence. Your core beliefs about race may cause shame and embarrassment because they reveal how you truly feel. Unexamined, they stink up the inner sanctum of your brain. Their appearance prompts you to unconsciously choose words that potentially perpetuates a plethora of pervasive problems. Juneteenth in Joliet is designed to allow you to unpack your mental suitcase to become more vigilant before uttering choice words.


You will not be asked to share what’s inside your mind in a public forum. You are simply directed to rethink about the way your words can serve as a force for positive change. The focus is squarely on shifting the onus of control from blaming “others” to empowered individual action via the metaphorical theory outlined below.


You are empowered with access to two invisible buckets. One filled with water. The other with gas. Each represents a choice. Each influences an outcome. The moment an inflammatory conversation occurs recalling the two-bucket theory empowers you to consciously choose how to respond. You can either douse the spark with water or ignite a flame with gas. The consequences of your words are important. They can stop conflict dead in its tracks or light a fire that burns innocent people. Keeping this metaphor in mind and using it - consciously - to filter your words is hard baked into the ethos that defines Juneteenth in Joliet.

Toni Greathouse is an entrepreneurial evangelist whose purpose is spelled out in the letters of her first name - serving as a reminder to Take On Neighborhood Interaction & Try Out Novel Ideas.