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on juneteenth and five ways to meaningfully recognize it.

acknowledging american history as a consistent practice.

african american jazz musicians are pictured holding a saxaphone and playing keyboard
mural art in denver, co (juneteenth 2011)

the juneteenth national independence act was signed into law by president joe biden on june 17th 2021. now recognized as a federal holiday, juneteenth or jubilee day or freedom day or liberation day or black independence day is a piece of american and world history everyone should know about.

a brief history. in september 1862 president abraham lincoln wrote the emancipation proclamation stating effective january 1st 1863 that all enslaved people would be free in the confederate states. but it wasn't until june 19th 1865 (two years and six months after the proclamation was signed) when major general granger and the u.s. army rolled into galveston, texas with general order no. 3 with the official news. and whether or not those who were enslaved in galveston knew or didn't know that they were free people, slave owners and their overseers could not keep them from their freedom any longer.

what juneteenth is. a celebration of the emancipation of enslaved black people in galveston, texas on june 19th 1865.

what juneteenth isn't. a celebration of the emancipation of all black people from enslavement. although the civil war was over, black codes and jim crow were instituted in its place. and slavery was still in practice in border states like delaware and kentucky and other confederate states.

if you plan to celebrate or observe juneteenth one of the first things to consider would be that of thoughtfulness. that opportunity you step into your own agency and get more curious about it than you were before. if this is your first time then some of these offerings can be a sounding board. above any recommendation or suggestion anyone can list just keep in mind that african-american culture is not monolithic and there can be drastic differences how one might honor dark moments of the past.

as it is now federally recognized there will be companies that give days off and some will not. there might be company sponsored programming and initiatives to attend virtually or in-person or there might not. either way you can always do something personally.

five ways to meaningfully recognize juneteenth.

learn your history. don't just go off of one video, post, or article. do research and fact check at least five different sources to gain deeper insight and to see if what is being written or filmed is factual. because juneteenth is relatively new in mainstream publications there will be some discrepancy in part and it may not be culturally competent in its suggestions on appropriate ways to recognize a federal holiday that is steeped in a history that makes people uncomfortable to address to this day.

keep it black. keep it afrocentric. don't co-opt. don't turn juneteenth into a mockery. or play into stereotypes that marginalize blackness or black people. check in with local black organizers who are already (and have been doing) month-long and year-long organizing not just in commemoration of this holiday but social justice programming in general. partner with or check-in and see how you can support and participate and coalition with. check to see if there is a local juneteenth gathering in your community.

buy black. support black owned business not just during juneteenth (all year round). patron your favorite local businesses with an emphasis on spending money on goods and services by african-americans. not only does it help boost the economy but it aids in the closing of the racial wealth gap, creates job opportunities and keeps their business going. buy black always and if your local shop doesn't carry black products ask them why.

don't get caught up in thinking juneteenth as the day slavery and racism ended. see juneteenth as a commemoration of all the dates and times and years of fighting for freedom. yes it is about those who were enslaved in galveston but it is more than that. other states celebrate other liberation dates as part of their local history which is important. see the celebration of juneteenth as an opportunity to remember there is still work to be done.

see it as a day on and not a day off. use this time to reflect on current issues in our country that have widely held racially motivated implications and what your role could be to combat it. easy to forget but we cannot forget that slavery was still legal less than 200 years ago. carve out time to have conversations with students with friends with family and ask them if they know what juneteenth is or why we celebrate it.

juneteenth goes beyond food. fun. flags. and festivals. it is a critical stepping stone to reflect upon not just to see how far we've come but to flashlight where we still need to go.


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