While Juneteenth has (unofficially) been celebrated since 1865, last year marked the first time it was officially recognized as a federal holiday — a period of 157 long years. President Biden signing the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act last year was undoubtedly a sign of great progress, but the speed at which it was done indicates just how much work has yet to be done.
“America loves a performance — especially a staging of democracy,” said Tamara Winfrey-Harris, our LiberateHer in Residence. “But florid corporate statements never freed anybody. Performance is not policy. Yet Black men who grew up picking cotton, calling white men “Mr.” and reading torn books, remain hopeful. Maybe today America is ready to make good on that hope with real emancipation and freedom for all.” Read Tamara’s 2020 thoughts here.
As our nation finally collectively celebrates Juneteenth, it’s important that we know the history surrounding this holiday. Over the years, it has also been known as Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day, and Liberation Day. While Juneteenth is one of the oldest celebrations of the ending of enslavement in the U.S., it is not the oldest. “I use Juneteenth as a time for celebration, reflection and honoring our ancestors for their resilience,” said Sharon Sanders Brooks, Belle of ’81 employed at the Basic Black Historical Consulting Service. “I encourage everyone to read more about our history, especially that surrounding Juneteenth.” Read Sharon’s historical summary here.
With that in mind, we encourage you to approach Juneteenth with mindful reflection on what it means to you. In many ways, the holiday is still establishing its identity. Corporate America seems to have its own ideas for how the holiday should be celebrated, while those of us who have traditionally celebrated it for years have many others. So the question becomes: How do you choose to celebrate Juneteenth, this year and for years to come?
Here are 4 ideas for how you could choose to celebrate and honor Juneteenth this year:
Support Black-Owned Businesses
Whether you’re walking around enjoying the air conditioning in-person or shopping online, take a moment to support your local Black-owned businesses. While we all feel the burden of rising inflation, business owners across the country are feeling the strain even more, and especially those also shouldering racial bias.
Whether it’s food, books, apparel, electronics, you name it, any contribution you can make to our fellow community members will be greatly appreciated. If you’re having trouble finding local Black-owned businesses near you, look no further than supportblackowned.com for a comprehensive list organized by state, or check out this list of Black-owned businesses found right here in Greensboro.
Know Your History
Now more than ever, it’s crucial that we know the significance behind Juneteenth, and the truth around what happened (or didn’t happen) 157 years ago. North Carolina is home to two of the most famous Black history museums in America: the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensborough, and Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum in Sedalia.
If you’re from out of state, three of our favorites are: The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee; The National Voting Rights Museum and Institute in Selma, Alabama; or The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York. These are just a few of the many historical sites scattered across the United States that give tribute to the struggle of Black people, and are an excellent place to refresh your history.
You can also learn about the Texas Freedom Colonies right from home — streaming free on YouTube. Presented by Dr. Andrea Roberts from The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (another fantastic museum to visit), this presentation provides insight into Freedom Colonies — African American communities established between 1865 and 1935 during the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras in Texas. Visit thetexasfreedomcoloniesproject.com for more information.
Attend A Festival
While we believe it’s important to be mindful of the historical events behind any holiday, many also choose to use this time for celebration. Coming up this weekend on June 18th, we have the 2022 North Carolina Juneteenth Festival in Concord, the Capital City Juneteenth Celebration in Raleigh, and the Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas in Charlotte.
Festivals and other celebrations can be a great alternative to barbecues and private gatherings if you want to skip the dishes and enjoy a group outing. There are hundreds of celebrations scheduled across the country, so find one near you.
Create Your Own Traditions
After all, there’s no rulebook for how Juneteenth, or any holiday, should be celebrated for that matter. In fact, Kwanza Jones, our TITLE Chair, chooses to honor her ancestors with her own approach.
“I will be working on Juneteenth because my ancestors paid for the freedoms that I, and many others, enjoy (and at times take for granted),” said Kwanza. “And I am in a world of debt, and gratitude, to all my people and their allies, that have afforded us this freedom… because it could not have happened alone. So, this Juneteenth, what will you do to honor the memories of those enslaved?” Read more on how Kwanza celebrates Juneteenth like a Black boss.
No two celebrations will ever be exactly alike, so we’re curious to hear how you, your family, and your loved ones put your unique spin on Juneteenth. We’d love to hear what this holiday means to you, so comment your thoughts, plans and opinions on Instagram here.