So you want to celebrate Juneteenth
Juneteenth is a federal holiday! The U.S. Senate unanimously passed it - there's that so-called bipartisanship we keep hearing about - and it passed the House (except for 14 crusty votes against because, well, that's the House for you). And yesterday, June 17, President Biden signed it into law.
What's Juneteenth you ask? It's when the American descendants of the formerly enslaved celebrate the emancipation of our ancestors in Texas, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Here's an Instagram post from Agate Creatives giving a high-level overview. And the What A Day podcast did a really great interview with UCLA Professor Brenda Stevenson about the history and significance of Juneteenth. There's even an official Juneteenth celebration website where you can learn more. Which is all to say, I'm not hear to tell you the history of Juneteenth. There's resources out there for you already. I don't need to do that work for you.
And I know a lot of people are wondering how to celebrate Juneteenth. What's the traditions? How do you mark the occasion? Are there certain foods? Certain drinks? (Mmmmmmm, strawberry soda!)
Yes. The answer to all those questions is "yes." But I'm not here to tell you how to celebrate Juneteenth - there's lots of sites and news outlets to give you all that information and probably some recipes or new and creative ways to commercialize the holiday. (Maybe Neiman Marcus will bring back their $66 greens to mark the occasion.)
I'm here to make a suggestion: don't. If your ancestors weren't enslaved, then there are other ways to mark the occasion of Juneteenth than a backyard cookout. Maybe, instead, you could mark the day and honor the approximately 388,000 Africans who disembarked in mainland North America into the horrors of chattel slavery and their descendants who lived, toiled, and died under that system. How can you do that? Some suggestions:
Financially support Black-owned small businesses.
Bookshop has a list of Black-owned bookstores.
Go buy something from Miiriya, a website and app that let's you easily shop from Black-owned businesses.
Etsy has a curated list of Black-owned shops on their site.
Learn about African American history and the impact of Black Americans on broader American culture. Where to start? How about trying:
Jeff Chang and Cook Can't Stop, Won't Stop
Ralph Ellison Invisible Man (only fiction listed but so good)
"High on the Hog" on Netflix
Zora Neal Hurston Mules and Men
Michael Twitty's The Cooking Gene
Learn something about the history that was left out at school and the impact of slavery where you live. ("Oh, but I live in 'insert state,' we didn't have slaves here.") OK, listen, sorry, that's false. Every part of America has benefited from the institution of slavery. Even if there weren't slaves physically in a specific location, there were economic advantages earned through the institution. Learn more:
Adrian Brettle, Myths and Misunderstandings: The North and Slavery, American Civil War Museum
Anthony Hazard, The Atlantic slave trade: What too few textbooks told you, TED-Ed
Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers, They Were Her Property
Slaves in New England, Medford Historical Society & Museum
Teaching Hard History podcast, Slavery & the Northern Economy, Learning for Justice
And delve into the lingering impact of slavery on American society today:
Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow
Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Case for Reparations, The Atlantic
Ava DuVernay, 13th, on Netflix
Erika Alexander & Whitney Dow, Reparations: The Big Payback podcast
Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law
Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns
Visit a museum and learn about slavery or Black Americans. I'm a museum nerd, you knew this was coming. There are so many museums available to you. Find one, visit, engage.
African Burial Ground National Monument, New York City
Cliveden House, Philadelphia, PA
Frederick Douglass- Isaac Myers Maritime Park, Baltimore, MD
Moffatt-Ladd House & Garden, Portsmouth, RI
National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, Chicago, IL
Royall House and Slave Quarters, Medford, MA
Whitney Plantation, Wallace, LA
Or check out these people doing important work in the museum field
Do the work yourself. Cause there's still work to do. The journey isn't over. The struggle hasn't ended. What needs doing?
Tell your elected officials to support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
And also the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act
And while you're at it, tell them to support the For the People Act
And then, if you can, throw some support to Black Lives Matter (your local chapter if you have one) or other organization working to build local power, advance equity and justice, and make the American Dream possible and a reality for ALL. Equality isn't pie, we can all get a piece.
And if you're in the position to do so: Make celebrating Juneteenth possible for Black Americans.
If you own a business, close for the day so your employees can have off.
If you run a summer camp or similar, mark the day as you would other summer federal holidays.
Don't ignore it. Don't forget it. Don't shy from it. Make space for Juneteenth.
NOTE: I kind of banged this out I'm launching my blog earlier than I planned because I didn't want to miss the opportunity to discuss Juneteenth. Future posts won't be glorified listicles!