In this Centric Commemorates, we’re celebrating Juneteenth. Our colleague Jehanwa Grant shares her appreciation for the holiday.
While the United States Congress didn’t make Juneteenth a federal holiday until 2021, it first occurred on June 19, 1866. The date marks the commemoration of the end of slavery as a state-sanctioned institution in the United States through the unyielding efforts of Black and white abolitionists as well as enslaved African Americans.
People often also refer to it as “Juneteenth Independence Day,” “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day.” Many of us are familiar with the celebrations and traditions of holidays such as July 4 and Thanksgiving. As we approach this year’s Juneteenth holiday, I would like to share how my family will choose to honor the day and provide several ways you and your family can acknowledge the resilience, culture and American history that is Juneteenth.
This is a new holiday for my family and me. I recently learned about Juneteenth in May of 2020 when an activist influencer suggested using that day as a refuge to help heal from the extreme racial injustices that came to light for us all in 2020. I did just that. I prayed, meditated and suppressed the negativity just for that day. It was indeed healing, and I knew then that I wanted to continue acknowledging the day each year and creating new traditions with my family.
Last year we hosted a barbecue with friends and family and included traditional food such as grilled meats, red beans and rice, red velvet cake and strawberry pies. If you noticed a theme in the menu, you would be correct! You are going to see a lot of red throughout the holiday. The color symbolizes the blood lost by our ancestors through the transatlantic slave trade.
This year, the day falls on a Sunday, and our church will host an outdoor service, followed by a community event that will include local Black-owned food vendors and businesses. We are looking forward to supporting each other and celebrating our community.
Through my research, I have learned that people choose to acknowledge this day differently. Whether it is using the day to meditate and pray, uplifting the community by supporting a Black-owned business or celebrating with a piece of strawberry pie, there are a plethora of ways to honor Juneteenth.
Here are a few additional ways you can choose to honor Juneteenth:
- Find an event in your community or host your own backyard party.
- Visit an exhibit or museum dedicated to black culture.
- Read books written by black authors and poets.
- Support Black-owned businesses.
- Listen to some good music by artists like Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Bob Marley, Common and Kendrick Lamar. Their songs are often rooted in freedom and revolution.
Through these stories, we’ll seek to learn, understand, and empathize. We’ll celebrate our differences and realize that though we have varied backgrounds and perspectives, we are one team.