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  • Writer's pictureHeather HK

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:

  • Do the work yourself. Cause there's still work to do. The journey isn't over. The struggle hasn't ended. What needs doing?

  • 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!

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