Juneteenth: A Celebration and a Call to Action

Juneteenth: A Celebration and a Call to Action

June 18, 2020

Juneteenth has always been a date steeped in both celebration of the liberation of black slaves and the hard reality of our collective national history. Because of recent events, this year, Juneteenth will represent–for many–a renewed commitment to fighting for social rights in America.

Others of us might be celebrating for the first time! While it's a good thing that we celebrate, we need to acknowledge that we all have a long way to go.

We thought it would be a good idea to start by going over some background for this timely holiday!

What exactly is Juneteenth? 

Juneteenth (or 'June Nineteenth') is an American holiday which has gone by a few other names in the past, including Freedom Day and Jubilee Day. It marks the day that the Emancipation Proclamation was read to the last Confederate State–effectively freeing the last still-enslaved persons in the United States. 

juneteenth-definition

What's the history behind Juneteenth? 

On June 19th, 1865, the Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas with some very important news: The war was won, and the enslaved were now free. 

History buffs might notice a bit of a discrepancy: Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was signed into effect on January 1st, 1863. Why the two-and-a-half-year delay? 

There are a few different theories as to why the news didn't effectively reach Texas during that time, but the end result is clear: That June 19th, enough Union troops arrived in Texas to enforce Lincoln's words. That June 19th, words which had been written suddenly turned into action. That June 19th, slaves weren't freed on paper; they were freed in actuality. 

Why it's important that we celebrate Juneteenth: 

There have been a few different versions of Juneteenth celebrations over the years.

The first few Juneteenths brought with them activities such as barbecuing, baseball, fishing and rodeos to mark the momentous occasion. These were mainly based in Texas out of small church communities. In the 1920's and 30's, the celebration became more widespread through the South. 

juneteenth

By the 1960's and the Civil Rights Movement, the celebration focused more on the civil rights of Black people after the war. A decade later, the holiday was marked by highlighting the legacy, history, and arts of the Black community. 

Now, Juneteenth is a widespread (though not officially recognized–yet) holiday. However, the roots of why we celebrate are still rooted in 1865. 

Immediately after the first Juneteenth, legions of newly-freed Black Americans left their plantations in search of a better life. Many travelled North to be with family, or to begin new lives in new regions. They quickly realized that the challenges of beginning a new status quo as equal citizens in America was going to be far from easy. Their descendants and heirs still fight for that better life today.

It's up to each of us, no matter our skin tone, financial status, previous actions or social media followers, to help continue and win the battle for equity, fairness, inclusivity and universal representation. 

Ideas and inspiration for celebrating Juneteenth now: 

Today, it's important that we celebrate the achievements of the past. It's important that we support our Black friends and family as they process everything that's happening (now, and over the past few centuries). 

juneteenth-celebrate

It's also important that we take real action, on holidays AND on regular days, to help build a world that is safe and fair for all. We've talked a little bit in previous posts about how to support our Black community members, but here are a few more Juneteenth-themed ideas: 

  • Put the date on your calendar with a recurring reminder. Many states recognize Juneteenth as a holiday; some don't. Activists are trying to get Congress to add it to the nation-wide calendar, but it's not a federal celebration at this time. Marking it anyway, remembering to celebrate it anyway, and telling your friends and family about it anyway are small steps we can all take to mark the occasion.
  • Make a festive meal and gather with your friends or family (remotely, if need be) to celebrate how far we've come–and to recognize how far we have yet to go to establish true social justice. Think about focusing on delicious and traditional foods to feature, such as sweet potatoes, barbecue, or watermelon!  

brisket-sandwich

  • Post your celebrations on social media to promote awareness of the holiday.
  • If you have a yard and signs are your thing, display a Juneteenth yard sign for increased visibility. 
  • Continue to educate yourself. We all need to be fully aware of what's going on, so we can stand with our Black brothers and sisters and promote needed change. 
  • Commit to tiny steps in the right direction. Follow Black Instagram accounts to diversify your feed; shift recurring purchases to Black-owned businesses or businesses committed to sourcing their goods in a diverse, equitable way. 

Happy Juneteenth, everyone! We're excited to celebrate this meaningful holiday with as much awareness and action as we can. 💪🏿💪🏾 💫  Unfortunately, Juneteenth is STILL not a nationally-recognized holiday, but you can sign this Next Gen America petition to make it one!

What are you going to do to celebrate??? 



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