Three Ways to Honor, Celebrate, and Remember Juneteenth This Year
Reflecting, responding, and amplifying the historic and important Juneteenth holiday can help us learn how to build freedom and equity for BIPOC.
Many of us are familiar with and celebrate the 4th of July – the federal holiday that commemorates the Declaration of Independence of the United States on July 4, 1776.
But, did you know that there is more than one Independence Day in the U.S.? There is another, lesser-known historic event that occurred back on June 19, 1865. It is called Juneteenth, and it is a celebration of the day that slavery was officially abolished in Texas.
Enslaved people had already been emancipated since January 1, 1863, however, due to a host of reasons, enforcement of the proclamation was so slow that many of the southern states did not even hear about it for months or years later. It was not until two and a half years later that General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, TX, and made the announcement that all the enslaved people were now free.
People in Texas started celebrating Juneteenth (the name is a combination of “June” and “nineteenth”) as far back as 1866, mostly as church or community-based celebrations. It then spread to many other states and became more widely known in the 20th century, most notably after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr1. It’s now 2020, and the systemic exclusion of black people across the world continues in all social, economic, and political aspects. It is amazing that even with so much information and opportunities, we as black people must prove that we are human, that we deserve some benefit of a doubt, and an opportunity to just breathe.
“I hope to restore confidence to our black people, confidence in our ability to create and restore humanity in education, at work, and most importantly, in our homes. Our identity is important, it is founded in the past and molded in the present and will move us to the future we envision, and it starts with being a good father, friend, and colleague.”
Now that you have some basic knowledge of why Juneteenth is so significant, try the following:
Research Juneteenth. There is a wealth of information available from credible sources, in addition to its presence in mainstream culture. As you learn more about this date in history, consider what Juneteenth means to you in today’s context. What thoughts and feelings do you have upon learning that there was such a delay in honoring the rights and freedoms of slaves in Texas? Take a few moments to consider this new knowledge and how it affects you and those close to you. Consider who in your immediate familial, social, and professional circles may not be aware of Juneteenth and consider how you may share it with them.
Consider who in your immediate familial, social, and professional circles may not be aware of Juneteenth and consider how you may share it with them.
What is your hope for 2020 and beyond given today’s context of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others? What freedoms and securities that were denied Texas slaves for two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and are still not fully realized 150 years later? It can be overwhelming to isolate activities that you as an individual can take to help support ongoing efforts to minimize opportunities for bias in your own actions. Begin your engagement at whatever level is comfortable for you at first. For many, this involves making financial contributions or supporting community-building events in your communities. As you become more confident and aware, expand your efforts to educate friends and family, leveraging resources to help start conversations about why Juneteenth is important and what freedoms are still not secured.
Share the voices and stories commemorating Juneteenth and the struggles in the following decades. Leverage social media to share credible information and actionable ideas. Talk to your family, your parents, your children and make sure that they understand why Juneteenth is so significant. Support conversations within your circles and beyond to make sure that they understand this holiday’s relevance to the racial inequities and systemic racism playing out in the United States. Juneteenth is meant to be a day celebrating freedom, and the opportunities and hope for a better future where equality reigns supreme. Now, what are you going to do to keep this hope and vision alive? What actions are you taking that you can share with others to bring them along?
Juneteenth is a holiday warranting respect, celebration, and reflection of how far we’ve come, but also recognizing how far we still need to go when considered in today’s context. Honoring the hopes and dreams of family, friends, and ancestors should be done with both reverence of where we’ve been and respect for what’s yet to be gained. Reflecting, responding, and amplifying are ways to continue to honor the past while communicating where we are today and where we want to go in the future.
SHL are committed to driving meaningful change by actively standing against racism, amplifying the voices of people of color, and holding ourselves and community accountable. Curious to know more? Read more about how SHL are moving the needle in diversity and inclusion in these articles.
1 Gates Jr., Henry Louis (2013, June) What is Juneteenth? The Root https://www.theroot.com/what-is-juneteenth-1790896900