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Happy Juneteenth, yall! If you’re like most people in this country, you probably don’t know what Juneteenth is, or why it suddenly popped up on your calendar this year. Like most Black history, the significance of this date was never taught in schools. In fact, none of my Black friends I asked grew up celebrating it, and some didn’t even know about it. So what is Juneteenth? I’m so glad you asked.
As we learned in school, on January 1, 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation was put into effect and all enslaved people were set free “forever.” However, what we didn’t learn is that it took two years for this news to travel down to the enslaved people in the confederate states. On June 19, 1865, word reached Texas and thousands of people were finally set free after years of torture. The date celebrates the true freedom of all enslaved people in the United States.
Thanks to the current Black Lives Matter movement, this important holiday is finally gaining some notoriety and is being celebrated across the country. Companies are recognizing Juneteenth as a paid holiday just like July 4 and people of all races are learning about the true history of this “great” nation. I, for one, am blown away by just how much my education was white-washed. I never learned about Tulsa or the several other race massacres. I never learned about Seneca Village. And it took me watching an episode of Atlanta (season 1, episode 9) a few years ago to learn about Juneteenth. No wonder there are so many people who don’t understand systemic racism in the United States.
Traditional Juneteenth celebrations include parades, festivals, singing traditional songs, readings of famous words of Black leaders, and of course, just like July 4, barbecues. Personally, I’d rather celebrate Juneteenth than July 4th. After all, it isn’t the “land of the free” if only some of us are free.
One great way to celebrate Juneteenth is to donate to racial justice organizations like Black Lives Matter, NAACP, and Color of Change. Another cool initiative is launching today. It’s called My Black Receipt and the idea is to spend your dollar at a Black-owned business from today until July 4th. The goal is to reach $5 million total. Simply upload your receipt here to participate!
Had you ever heard of Juneteenth before this year? How will you be celebrating?
Photos by Ryan Carpenter.