What Is Juneteenth, and How Do I Celebrate It?
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(Note: The author of this article is not Black, and the purpose of this article is to educate non-Black folks on the importance of Juneteenth. Furthermore, the author of this article would never presume to instruct Black folks on a holiday that they’ve been celebrating for years.)
#Juneteenth is a powerful moment in black history. It commemorates the end of slavery in America.
Here's why today is important for the United States. pic.twitter.com/ZQYh1N2OKU
— The Root (@TheRoot) June 19, 2019
Also called Emancipation Day and Black Independence Day, Juneteenth celebrates the abolition of slavery and specifically the moment that Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce the freedom of the enslaved and the ending of the Civil War on June 19, 1865.
Juneteenth is not a national holiday, although it rightfully should be, as nearly every state recognizes it in some capacity. States like New York and Virginia have both recently announced their intentions of making Juneteenth a paid holiday for state employees. And so have brands. In fact, a variety of companies, from Buzzfeed to Adobe, have committed to observing Juneteenth this year.
With the work of the Black Lives Matter movement and the continuing protests around the country against police brutality and systemic racism, the people are putting the pressure on and demanding actively anti-racist policies from the brands they support. It’s simply not enough to be silently “not racist” anymore.
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Tomorrow is Juneteenth! But what is Juneteenth? Well, it’s the holiday that celebrates the abolition of slavery! More specifically, on June 19th, 1865, about two months after the end of the Civil War, Union General Gordan Granger went to Galveston, Texas to tell enslaved Black folx of their freedom. While this holiday is not federally recognized, several cities and states, including Galveston, Texas, mark the date each year with celebrations and festivities. With all attention on the Black Lives Matter movement, Juneteenth has recently garnered a lot of focus, with some bigger corporations even giving the day off to employees. With the 4th of July coming up in the US, this time of year is typically marked with celebrations of patriotism for white folx. Juneteenth reminds us of the more sinister history of this country and that not everyone has had the option to be truly free. Even today. While Juneteenth is certainly a day for celebration, I encourage white people to plan some time for education and reflection on this day. That said, It’s also a day to celebrate Black excellence and joy! Remember it’s just as important to support Black folx in life as you do in death or struggle. Some things you can do to celebrate Black joy and excellence on Juneteenth: – Buy artwork from a Black artist – Read and discuss articles from The Root’s Black Excellence column – Order takeout from a Black owned restaurant – Venmo individual Black people doing good work – Listen to playlists and podcasts featured in Spotify’s ‘Black History is Now’ campaign – Read a book by a Black author that’s main subject area is not racism – Contribute to a Kickstarter for a Black owned business that you think is awesome – Buy a book with a Black protagonist for a child in your life – Watch stand-up from a Black comic (don’t forget Black femme comedians) – Watch a show or movie that features Black Joy (swipe for Netflix’s list) . . . #blacklivesmatter #blackjoy #blackjoymatters #blackexcellence #juneteenth
In an informative post where Instagram user celisiastanton does much of the work for us, she writes: “With the 4th of July coming up in the US, this time of year is typically marked with celebrations of patriotism for white folx. Juneteenth reminds us of the more sinister history of this country and that not everyone has had the option to be truly free. Even today.”
She also reminds us that while non-Black folks might like to take this day to educate ourselves and reflect on recent U.S. history, “it’s just as important to support Black folx in life as you do in death or struggle.”
There are a number of ways to celebrate Black excellence on Juneteenth. For non-Black folks, the most appropriate ways are by amplifying Black voices and financially supporting Black-owned businesses. Whether it’s ordering takeout from Black-owned restaurants, buying debut books from rising Black authors, or commissioning Black artists, Juneteenth should be treated as a holiday of both reflection and celebration.