To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Mark Twain, American humorist, said that.
And he wasn’t necessarily joking.
Hawa Diawara feels the same — and she’s not laughing, either.
That’s why the 18-year-old, from Morgantown by way of Columbus, Ohio, got together with friends to organize a cookout in honor of today’s Juneteenth observance.
Their event runs two days, actually. It will be from 1:30-8:30 p.m. today and Saturday on the WVU Mountainlair green.
Look for international foods, music from a D.J. and maybe even a surprise guest, she said.
Diawara was born in the U.S. thanks to her parents, who got here by way of Guinea.
“They wanted a better life,” she said of her parents, who left their home in West Africa because they believed in human potential.
“They wanted the American dream.”
Too often, she said, it’s a dream deferred, for people whose pigment runs a darker hue than their neighbors’.
People who have names that are different and speak with an accent clearly not of the local dialect.
Around 15 people gathered Thursday afternoon on the steps of Morgantown’s Public Safety Building.
With a statue depicting a policeman taking a knee to help a child — both Caucasian — those assembled talked about profiling and the people who can only seem to toil in low-wage jobs, provided they even get hired at all.
“I’m 24, and I don’t think I’ll get to retire,” one woman said.
Others preferred to let their hand-lettered signs do the talking for them.
“WHITE SILENCE IS VIOLENCE,” read one.
“PRIVILEGE IS WHEN YOU THINK SOMETHING IS NOT A PROBLEM BECAUSE YOU AREN’T PERSONALLY AFFECTED,” proclaimed another.
The protestors spoke quietly, but there was plenty of loud honking of cars, their drivers waving in solidarity, as they motored by.
Juneteenth jumped in the nation’s consciousness on June 19, 1865, when more than 250,000 black people were finally told they were free of their enslavement.
This, two years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
Diawara wants to look at that with pride, she said, even in an “I can’t breathe,” world.
It’s still not easy, though, she said.
That’s because she sometimes gets looked at (stared at, really) because of her hijab.
And, her passionate views.
The human spirit gets pounded down too often by the hammer of bigotry, she said.
This fall, she’ll be a freshman at WVU, majoring in economics and minoring in political science.
As a student at Morgantown High School, she presented at a human rights conference in Atlanta.
It was there she detailed her plans to found a nonprofit she named The Voices of Women Matter.
Her organization, she said, will combat domestic violence — while advocating for the end of forced female genital circumcision and forced child marriage.
George Floyd has put a magnifying glass, and an amplifier, to Juneteenth 2020, she said.
Empathy still tosses out big beams of light, she said, just like a lighthouse in the fog.
And immigrants, such as her mom and dad, still carry and direct the beam, a proud daughter said.
“We can again allow cultures here to flourish,” she continued.
“That’s how you make America great.”