Opal Lee, known as the Grandmother of Juneteenth, celebrated her 97th birthday with a groundbreaking ceremony for her new home this Saturday. The event is noteworthy as it signifies her return to the lot where her family’s home was burned down by rioters in 1939.
Opal Lee, reflecting on her life experiences, expressed a simple desire for everyone to have a home, highlighting the challenges she faced in houses with leaky roofs and humble shotgun structures.
Her decision to return to the neighborhood where her family once faced violence is a matter of practicality. In 1939, white rioters harassed and burned down their home, leading her parents to send the children away for safety. Now, Lee is returning, acknowledging positive changes in the community.
Opal Lee, a founding board member of Trinity Habitat for Humanity, shared the happenstance of Habitat purchasing the lot where her family’s home once stood. This led to discussions and the decision to build a new home on the same site, devoid of any extraordinary inspiration.
Lee’s optimism about the changing community is grounded in a practical sense that the construction might bring stability. She expressed satisfaction in knowing that she won’t have to worry about the new house being torn down and believes in the potential for positive change, even among those who once caused harm.
The construction of Opal Lee’s new home is funded by Citizens Concerned with Human Dignity and is expected to take six months. Despite challenges and painful memories associated with the past, Lee remains resilient, attributing her decision to return to the neighborhood to a higher plan. She states her intention to live to see the completion of her new home, devoid of any grand inspiration.
Opal Lee’s journey is a pragmatic one, not about grand transformation, but about rebuilding a house and moving forward. Her story reflects practicality and the resilience to navigate through adversity.