In loving memory of Grandma Ann, Grandpa Prince, Grandpa John & Grandma Gladys
— thank you for being my sunlight.
My ancestors came from a small island in the Caribbean. Our island is a beautiful enclave of sunlight, untouched wildlife, palm trees and air so humid you can touch the warmth with your fingertips. It is a small piece that contributes to the beautiful landscape of what my family is fortunate enough to call home. Upon giving birth to my mother, my grandmother left her five children on the island, supervised by her mother — A continuation of Black mothers helping to raise the next generation. Her and her husband left the island in the hopes of making enough money to send for their children to meet them in America. Soon that dream was realized and my aunts and uncles began the treacherous journey on boat, another boat, a small plane and a bigger plane to reunite with their mother and father, this time in a shiny new country. They grew up spending summers in the hot sun of Brooklyn, New York. The sunlight, although different than the one they were used to on the island, still had a similar glow. That New York sun quickly turned into Los Angeles sun, as my mother made the great leap to pursue art full time in the sunshine state. A marriage and a child later, here I am.
I have been told that June is Caribbean Heritage Month. I have also been told that June 19th is Juneteenth, the actual day the African slaves were emancipated. These days are slowly beginning to feel so so arbitrary. As if to say that the entire identity of my people can be reduced to a moment in time. As Black people…our hair has the ability to transcend gravity while our skin glistens with the hopes of our ancestors. Yet our identity is often reduced to a single day, a single month, a single moment. My heritage radiates through my body on any given day. When I dance through the streets of Los Angeles I am dancing for myself, for my body, for my grandparents, for my ancestors. As Black people, nothing we do is stagnant. There is no beginning or end to our movements, our ideas or our creations. We are moving with the tide of our people. We are carrying with us the spirits of those who jumped from the ships, those who remained on the ships and those who stood on the ships and watched their country get smaller and smaller as they rode off into the distance. I am not one person, I am my grandmother. I have her face, I have her mind, I have her ambition.
Our generation is the first to embrace Juneteenth. I cannot imagine the Juneteenth celebrations that will take place by the time I have my own children. But please be aware when celebrating this holiday that my people and my pain does not simply go away because the government “grants” us an additional day off. My ancestral pain is not wiped away from my spirit. Only time can do that. Give Black people their time and their space to decide what this day means to them. Today I will be mourning my ancestors. I will dance to their tribal beats and furiously shake my braids to the rhythm of the island. I will look up and see the Los Angeles sunlight, just like my mother once saw the Caribbean sunlight.
We are looking at the same sun.
Kennedy (Ken) Daniel is a proud Los Angeles native with a background in film photography, modeling, content creation, brand marketing, and content strategy. She is so excited to be joining the JUV Consulting team as the Director of Brand. Kennedy’s journey to brand marketing began at the University of Southern California where she collected a B.A. in Communications in 2021. In college, Kennedy proudly led the “I Am That Girl” club during her senior year. Her certification in the art of Council (a Native American technique of communication and conflict resolution) from Snap Inc. allowed her to effectively lead her club members through difficult conversations regarding race, gender, identity, mental health, and life on campus.