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How to Celebrate Juneteenth: A Guide for Beginners
The Juneteenth holiday has been sacred to many Black communities for over one and a half centuries. It marks the day enslaved people in Galveston, Texas found out they had been freed after the end of the Civil War, and two years after President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Here's how you can celebrate Juneteenth:
Cookouts and Barbecues
Juneteenth festivities are rooted in cookouts and barbecues. In the beginnings of the holiday celebrated as Black Americans' true Independence Day, the outdoors allowed for large, raucous reunions among formerly enslaved family, many of whom had been separated. The gatherings were especially revolutionary because they were free of restrictive measures, known as "Black Codes," enforced in Confederate states, controlling whether liberated slaves could vote, buy property, gather for worship, and other aspects of daily life.
A Day of Rest and Remembrance
Others may treat Juneteenth as a day of rest and remembrance. That can mean doing community service, attending an education panel, or taking time off. The important thing is to make people feel they have options on how to observe the occasion.
Search online and you will find a smorgasbord of gatherings in major cities and suburbs, all varying in scope and tone. Some are more carnivalesque festivals with food trucks, arts and crafts, and parades. Within those festivals, you'll likely find access to professionals in healthcare, finance, and community resources. There also are concerts and fashion shows to highlight Black excellence and creativity. For those who want to look back, plenty of organizations and universities host panels to remind people of Juneteenth's history.
Aside from barbecue, the color red has been a through line for Juneteenth food for generations. Red symbolizes the bloodshed and sacrifice of enslaved ancestors. A Juneteenth menu might incorporate items like barbecued ribs or other red meat, watermelon, and red velvet cake. Drinks like fruit punch and red Kool-Aid may make an appearance at the table.
If you want to bring some authenticity to your recognition of Juneteenth, educate yourself. Attending a street festival or patronizing a Black-owned business is a good start, but expanding your knowledge of why the holiday matters so much is even better. That can be done through reading, attending an event, or going to an African American history museum if there's one nearby.
The Importance of Juneteenth
Over the decades, Juneteenth has also been called Freedom Day, Emancipation Day, Black Fourth of July, and Second Independence Day, among others. For many African Americans, the farther away from Texas they grew up, the less likely they had big Juneteenth celebrations regularly. Dr. Karida Brown, a sociology professor at Emory University, whose research focuses on race, said there's no reason to feel awkward about wanting to recognize Juneteenth if you have no personal ties or you're not Black. In fact, embrace it. That is a radical human act that is awesome and should be encouraged and celebrated.
Whether it's through attending a festival, having a barbecue, or taking time to learn about the history and significance of the holiday, there are many ways to celebrate Juneteenth. The important thing is to be respectful and understanding of the holiday's cultural and historical significance.
Juneteenth is a significant and growing holiday in the United States that businesses should be aware of. With increasing awareness and recognition of this historic event, companies have an opportunity to engage with their communities by acknowledging and celebrating Juneteenth. Taking the time to educate yourself and your staff on the festival's heritage and traditions is a great way to honor the holiday and show your support.
Businesses that want to make the most of Juneteenth can get involved by sponsoring local events, organizing educational workshops, or offering special deals or discounts. One easy way small businesses can show their support for this important holiday is by incorporating Juneteenth-themed products or services, such as red velvet cupcakes or barbeque specialties, to their menus.
Ultimately, Juneteenth is a time to celebrate Black heritage and history while also acknowledging the ongoing fight for freedom and equality. By recognizing Juneteenth and supporting this growing movement, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to social justice and diversity, helping to build stronger, more inclusive communities for all.