Life Lessons by Opal Lee Grandmother of Juneteenth
Opal discusses the journey of her mission to teach love and fight for what’s right.
By Rebecca Aguilar
The history of Opal Lee’s life covers the walls of her Fort Worth home. Numerous awards and mementos for her community and civil rights work. Photos of her family’s ancestry hang on a small, wired tree. A large painting of another family tree spreads its branches across a dining room wall.
She is in a back bedroom on this day, relaxing in her favorite easy chair. “My mother was one of 19 children,” she tells a reporter who has called her from Tyler, Texas, for a live radio interview. “My mother was passionate about her children.”
At 96 years old, she is used to telling her life story a few times a week to the media or at public events where she is celebrated and honored for everything she has done in her long life, from helping unhoused and needy families in Fort Worth to spearheading efforts to turn Juneteenth into a national federal holiday.
Family, friends and supporters know her as “Ms. Opal.” They also know she is on several missions in life, and she is not done yet. People often ask her why she hasn’t slowed down at her age.
“As long you have breath and as long as you can help others, you should do so,” she says. “I got a list. I don’t know how long, but when I wake up, I know there are things that have to be done.”
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