I’ve wanted to celebrate Juneteenth for awhile. I didn’t grow up knowing much about the holiday, and it wasn’t something that we celebrated in my family. I’ve been to numerous Fourth of July celebrations, cookouts, etc., but I don’t remember any of them centering what was actually being celebrated: America’s independence. We were just getting together as a family, which we never really needed an excuse to do. Food played a big part in that, so the Fourth of July was yet another holiday for different family members to bring their best dish and to break bread together. Once we moved to Texas, I became even more interested in learning about the holiday, especially when I learned that Galveston was only a few hours away.
The Fourth of July marks the day, in 1776, that America’s 13 colonies became free from rule by Britain. However, the enslavement of (most) Black people did not formally end until the Emancipation Proclamation became official in 1873. The caveat or asterisk to this statement is that there were enslaved people living in Galveston, TX who had no idea that the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed. In fact, it wasn’t until two years later on June 19 (hence “Juneteenth”) that word reached the enslaved in Galveston that they had, in fact, been freed two years prior. The celebrations that assuredly occurred that day laid the foundation for generations to come.
Due to the recent uprisings after several strings of police brutality, there is an urgent incentive to celebrate the holiday across the country. Companies like Amazon and Nike have declared Juneteenth a paid holiday for employees. This year, my husband took the day off (and will be doing so from now on), and we are taking a trip to the beach with our children to celebrate. Here are some things that you can do with your family to celebrate if it is your first-time celebrating the holiday:
-Learn about Juneteenth’s history and significance.
Read books about the holiday. I’m a firm believer in the power of books, especially for explaining new information to young people. There are a plethora of children’s books about Juneteenth. Some options are: –All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson –Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper -Freedom’s Gifts by Valerie Wesley
–Enjoy a meal with your family.
Food brings people together, so fire up the grill or oven and cut up some summer fruit. Remember that Juneteenth was a day of celebration, so keep this at the center of your feast. Use this as a time to connect and spend time with loved ones in honor of meals that those brave formerly enslaved folks cooked together to recognize their freedom and dignity.
-Have a family discussion (freedom, justice, family values).
During this time, we are all spending a lot more of it together. This is a great time to have discussions together (especially with the youngest members of the family) about your family values. What is important to your family? Why? You could even draw up a family mission statement. Within these conversations, you can provide a layered discussion by thinking through freedom and justice. Start by looking up the definitions of these words, and then discussing their meaning together. This is definitely a conversation to revisit each year, and you can deepen the conversation as your children get older.
-Sprinklers and fireworks.
Much like Fourth of July celebrations, bring out the fireworks (if it is legal in your area), sparklers, noisemakers, etc. This can be whatever you wish to mark a special occasion. Juneteenth should be a day of celebration, so make it one to remember for your children with these fun extras.
-Donate to an organization.
Expand the conversation on your family values by choosing an organization to donate to. Research together different organizations that align with your values, and choose one that centers and prioritizes Black folks. No amount is too small.
Here is a list of local events happening this weekend:
Friday, June 19
Growing Your Roots During a Global Pandemic Using Genealogy as a Progressive Tool, 10am-12pm, hosted by Huston-Tillotson University, Austin, TX
Juneteenth Celebrate Liberation, 11am, hosted by UTSA Student Union in collaboration with the African American Studies and Multicultural Student Center for Equity and Justice via Zoom
Juneteenth Vesper Celebration, hosted by First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Antonio at 6pm, hosted online
Austin’s Juneteenth Celebration: Stay Black and Live, 6-10pm on various platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitch and Youtube)
Saturday, June 20
Black Girls Do Bike San Antonio Juneteenth Ride at 9:30am Meet at Jack White Trailhead, San Antonio, TX (3803 Seguin Road, across from Splashtown). The ride will begin at 10am. It is beginner friendly. The path will head south to Comanche Park, and is 6 miles each way.
In Celebration of Freedom: A Pflugervillle Juneteenth, 11am-6pm at Lake Pflugerville Pflugerville, TX (outside of Austin)
Juneteenth Car Parade, Celebration and Memorial, 6:30pm-9:30pm, Hill Country Bible Church Pflugerville, 303 E Pflugerville Parkway, Pflugerville, TX (outside of Austin)
2020 Texas Freedom Festival, San Antonio’s official Juneteenth festival, has been postponed.
Love the article, Briana! And thanks for sharing and enlightening as I too, did not celebrate nor truly know the meaning of Juneteenth! Looking forward to celebrating it from here on out!
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