Black History has always been a vital part of my life. When I was in elementary school, my mom would teach Black History lessons to my classmates and me. She also created various activities each Martin Luther King Jr Day and Black History Month to further my knowledge of significant figures and events. It was always surprising to learn how recent slavery and segregation were.
Now that I’m older, it’s shocking to see how prevalent racism still is. We have a long way to go as a country, but acknowledging and celebrating Juneteenth is a great way to start.
When is Juneteenth?
Observed annually on June 19th, Juneteenth is celebrated this year on Sunday, June 19, 2022.
Why is Juneteenth important?
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the official ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19th, 1865 all Americans were liberated from slavery. As you may know, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. However, it took more than 2 years for the news to reach enslaved Black Americans in the south.
Despite the importance and significance of this holiday, it wasn’t until last year on June 15, 2021, that the U.S. Senate unanimously approved the bill making Juneteenth a legal federal holiday. It was signed into law by President Joe Biden the following day. This holiday is the longest-running African American holiday and a reminder that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr once said.
So how should you celebrate Black Independence Day this year? Read on to see some of my top suggestions to help make the most of your Juneteenth.
How to celebrate Juneteenth
Start small but make an impact
Start by embracing ethnic and unique names and the correct pronunciation of them. Learn to recognize and remove all micro-aggressions from your conversations. Instead of being a bystander, challenge discriminatory attitudes and behaviors when you hear them in conversations. Lastly, reflect on your own subconscious biases and actively work against them.
Honor the culture and its traditions
On the first anniversary of Juneteenth, the holiday was celebrated with prayer, song, and wearing new clothes representing newfound freedom. These celebrations are not as common today, but it is important having an understanding of how prayerful and appreciative Black people were to finally be free from slavery. In honoring Black culture, it’s important to refrain from appropriation or mistaking the marketed “Black lifestyle” for the actual lived experience.
Help to ensure workplaces and schools are acknowledging Juneteenth
This is one of the best ways to grow together in this country. The simple acknowledgment and observance of such a vital day is beyond important in demonstrating respect for the trials and tribulations that Black people endured gaining our freedom. If there are any Black employees who would like to be highlighted, give them the platform to share their career journey. Or, host a volunteer event that all team members can participate in.
Support Black bloggers, influencers, and content creators
There are many creators of color who are equally as creative and talented as their Caucasian counterparts. They unfortunately will not receive as much visibility when posting the same content. Minority influencers might have a limited level of access to events, and many face a pay gap too. When you come across a Black creatives’ content, engage with it and share it with your followers and friends. This includes helpful articles (like the one you’re currently reading!) to start the conversation on celebrating Juneteenth.
Buy Black-owned products
Thirteen Lune, founded by a Black woman, is an online platform where you can find POC-owned skincare, makeup, and personal care items. A couple years ago I wrote this article for aSweatLife featuring Black-owned businesses as another resource for finding Black-owned products.
Patronize Black-owned restaurants
Especially those in predominantly Black communities to help build and grow those neighborhoods. The money you spend is recycled back into Black households. This can then be used to fund education and help to better support the community. You can also donate to Black organizations and charities.
Host a family gathering or picnic
Now is a great time to get together with family and learn more about your family’s ancestry. The hard truth for nearly every Black American is that we’re directly descended from slaves. Tracing your family’s roots back to slavery can be emotional, but if you have the ability and the privilege it can be a fulfilling experience. Celebrating and enjoying time together is the hallmark of any holiday.
Read books by Black authors
Especially important are those that provide insight on the Black experience and how to be an ally. This is an excellent time to learn about Black people’s delay in freedom and some of the inequities and injustices that still take place today. Overall this opportunity allows time to brush up on our knowledge of Black History and explore some topics and facts we might not know. There are so many amazing achievements and things to celebrate in Black History.
Remember the many Black lives lost
From the slaves that helped to build this nation to the untimely and unjust recent killings of Black Americans, Juneteenth is a great time to reflect on the many lives lost. By honoring these lives we acknowledge not only the struggles Black people faced to get to this point but also the current struggles within our society.
Take time to rest
If you are Black and you’re fortunate to have the day off, take that time to rest and recharge. We know what hardships and challenges you face on a daily basis as a Black person in America. Today can be a day of self-care and self-love.