The anniversary of when all slaves in the United States were freed, Juneteenth is an opportunity to listen, learn, and act in support and celebration of Black people.

By Sharisse Tracey
June 17, 2020
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Credit: Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Thanks to recent protests against police brutality and white supremacy,  you probably have at least now heard about the Black holiday known as Juneteenth. Also called Black Independence Day, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Cel-Liberation Day, and Jubilee Day, Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day when all Black slaves were legally freed in the U.S., with large gatherings full of traditional food, prayers, spiritual rituals, historic readings, and dancing.

In 1980, Texas was the first state to officially celebrate Juneteenth. Since then 47 states and Washington D.C. have followed, however, Congress has stalled on declaring it a national holiday. Still, the holiday has been passed down generation after generation, year after year with its rich traditions, festivals, carnivals, parades, and a Juneteenth staple—the barbecue. The holiday has even been featured on popular television shows like Black-ish.

Much in the same way America celebrates July 4 as Independence Day, June 19 should be celebrated worldwide. Here are a few ways to pay our respects and join in the celebration of the freedom of Black people.

1. Visit a Virtual Museum

With most of the world still working remotely and attending classes online, you can't get much more socially distanced and safer than your own private virtual museum tour. To honor Juneteenth the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture has an online presentation of the important holiday that is a must-view for everyone elementary school-aged and older, including all genders and races.

2. Get Involved

Another way to celebrate Juneteenth is by actively showing your support. Get moving by taking a walk for justice in the safety of your neighborhood to bring awareness and support to #wearedonedying. Registration for this event is now closed, but you can still view their progress by joining in on Facebook or Instagram Saturday, June 20, 2020 from 7:00 a.m. and logging your miles with the hashtag #wearedonedying. You can also check out your city's website to find out how they are celebrating Juneteenth, or start your own neighborhood car parade.

3. Listen

As with any tradition, stories are lost without the constant telling and retelling of what our African ancestors called oral histories. We can keep the spirit of Juneteenth alive and well by actively listening to our Black elders, grandparents, preachers, teachers, historians, and educators. Engage a Black veteran in conversation to inquire about the holiday. Call your Black friends and ask if you can visit their church or community gathering for Juneteenth and revel in stories rich with resilience, determination, and fortitude.

4. Read

Juneteenth almost always focuses on education and self-improvement. Educate yourself by reading a book by a Black author. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, and We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates are just a few recommended by Penguin Random House. Check out other curated lists or virtually at your local library. There are plenty of choices and thousands of pages of Black history to broaden your knowledge.

5. Watch

This year Netflix's curated series on Black Lives Matter makes it easy to watch and learn instead of Netflix and chill with some documentaries featuring open discussions after the show like Ava Duverney's award-winning must-see When They See Us or 13th. If you have middle or high school children, watch The Hate U Give or Remember The Titans. If Friday is your usual date night, why not snuggle up and watch Loving?

Whether you celebrate Juneteenth in an entertaining way by route of Black-ish or #BlackAF or through a documentary film that will take your breath away and leave you seeking justice, make sure you schedule in some couch time while we are at home. And take the time to make a commitment to bring more awareness about Juneteenth by this time next year in your home, schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces.

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