When the Declaration of Independence was signed, it took another 87 years before slavery was abolished, and we could actually label the United States as “The Land of The Free.” Although we celebrate our freedom as a country every 4th of July, the holiday can feel slightly tainted for the Black Community. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1862, but it wasn’t until June 19th, 1865 that all Americans became free from slavery. So, what is this fun holiday we celebrate every June 19th? Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, or Emancipation Day, is a day to celebrate the liberation and freedom of African Americans! The national holiday is about celebrating Black culture, history, and bringing people together to honor all those who fought for the rights and privileges we hold today.
This holiday is also an opportunity to take the time to acknowledge the many contributions that Black people have made to American culture. Slave owners often took credit for their slaves’ inventions- the original inventors did not obtain any of the benefits associated with their work. Are you familiar with the famous Jack Daniel’s whiskey? Back in 1866, Jack Daniels became the first registered distillery in the United States, and it’s a staple in most bars today. For 150 plus years the story was that Jack Daniel learned his art from pastor Dan Call. In reality, he was taught to distill by an enslaved African, Nearest Green, whose contributions had been written out of history! This isn’t an isolated occurrence. Many Black people throughout history haven’t been recognized for their hard work and inventions. Take some time to dive into the history books and appreciate what African Americans have done for this country despite some of them getting zero recognition.
Why is it important to celebrate Juneteenth?
Taking time to acknowledge and appreciate the Black community, while celebrating the freedom from slavery in 1865, helps us continue on the road to mending the many years of racism in this country. As we still fight for equality in 2021, it’s also important to recognize how far we have come. We have a list of a few ways you can honor this holiday from party ideas to resources for Black-owned businesses to support.
Go to an event
Find events in your neighborhood like street fairs and parades where people are dancing and eating traditional foods dedicated to celebrating Juneteenth. Some states like Texas and New York already have information on how to join festivities while keeping safe during the pandemic. Look up what events are happening in your town and join in on the party! Is COVID-19 a concern in your area? The Amistad Center for Art & Culture, Step Afrika! and James Madison’s Montpelier Museum are all holding virtual Juneteenth events.
Host a party!
If there aren’t any events near you then celebrate at home with friends and family! Slavery tore thousands of families apart, so bringing the family together on this day symbolizes a strengthening of bonds. Get some beef or veggie patties on the grill, dance to great music, and play games. Juneteenth is about bringing the community together to celebrate and have a good time. Even if you can’t go to a giant gathering, you can make it happen from your very own backyard.
Cook some traditional foods
Food is usually the main star of every celebration. Try out traditional recipes associated with the holiday. Check out recipes here by Black creators. Many meals incorporate the color red to represent the resilience of the enslaved— strawberry soda is a fun and delicious way to add a red beverage to your Juneteenth celebration. If cooking isn’t a thing you usually do, order from a Black-owned restaurant instead!
Support Black-Owned Businesses, Black Authors and Artists
Next time you are on the hunt for a gift or looking to treat yourself, shop at a Black-owned business. Not only are Black business owners turned down for loans twice as often as their white counterparts, but they were hit harder in 2020 with 40% of businesses closing. For a list of 55 businesses to support, shop here. If Etsy is your go-to, show your support by shopping from these jewelry and home decor artists.
If you aren’t in the mood for shopping, but looking for another great read, support a Black author. Here is a list of top 2021 books on GoodReads.
Forty-seven states (minus Hawaii and the Dakotas) have acknowledged Juneteenth as a day of observance, but it’s still not a federal holiday! Opal Lee started a petition asking Congress to make Juneteenth a national holiday, and this week the Senate unanimously approved the bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday! The measure is expected to be approved by the House of Representatives very soon.
Happy Juneteenth everyone! Amplify Black voices, businesses, and community-led organizations throughout the year, but especially today! We hope you have a fun day celebrating, and remember not to eat too much red velvet cake.