On June 19th in 1865, the Emancipation Proclamation was read to the last enslaved Black Americans in Texas. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1963, Texas was the last state to have it read and enforced by union soldiers, two and a half years later. Today, 47 of the 50 states recognize Juneteenth as a special day of observance or a state holiday but activists have been fighting to make Congress recognize it as a national holiday.
Growing up I usually spent Juneteenth reflecting on my own and processing my complicated feelings about what it means to be free in the United States. Eventually I started celebrating with my friends. Now I tend to celebrate with music, food, reflecting, and donating. I prefer to celebrate Juneteenth instead of July 4th because of the way the American government continues to treat its citizens.
If you are looking to celebrate Juneteenth there are many ways to share in this special holiday. Below I have listed a few of the ways that I like to celebrate.
Listen to leaders in the Black community discuss our history and our future. You can either attend an event in person to listen to a local community leader or you can look to the internet for inspiration.
Have a meal.
Like many celebrations, Juneteenth is often celebrated with a meal. Whether you host a small dinner or have a large BBQ, gathering around a meal is an important part of the Juneteenth celebration. Don’t forget to serve a red drink or red food to symbolize our resilience.
We’ve come a long way and endured so many hardships. Be proud of our history and what our ancestors have accomplished. Reflect on your contributions to the community and share gratitude to your loved ones and leaders.
Lots of people always ask me where the best places to donate are. I always advise reaching out to black community leaders in your area to see where funds are needed. You can also give money to bail out funds in your area or the areas that need it to keep protesters out of jail. Remember to keep checking for gofundme’s and other opportunities to give money directly to families effected by police brutality.
No matter how you choose to celebrate Juneteenth, be sure to take some time to reflect on Black history and celebrate Black joy.