Juneteenth community celebration is a federal holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the United States. It marks the day when the last enslaved people in Texas learned that they were free, on June 19, 1865.
Juneteenth transcends mere calendrical significance, embodying profound historical and cultural significance in the human experience. It celebrates freedom, culture, and community for African Americans and their allies. It’s a time to honor the history and achievements of Black Americans and to reflect on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
But how can you join the Juneteenth community celebration in 2023? What are some of the ways that you can celebrate this historic and festive occasion? In this blog post, we’ll share some ideas and tips on making the most of Juneteenth, whether you’re new to it or a longtime celebrant.
Learn about the history and significance of Juneteenth
Undoubtedly, one of the most insightful methods to partake in the Juneteenth community festivities involves delving into the history and significance of this monumental occasion. Indeed, Juneteenth represents far more than an arbitrary date. Specifically, it stands as a transformative juncture in American history, one that indelibly altered the lives of countless individuals.
The Emancipation Proclamation
Juneteenth traces its origins to the Emancipation Proclamation; on January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln officially issued the proclamation, announcing the liberation of all enslaved individuals in the Confederate states, marking a pivotal moment in American history as a war measure to weaken the rebellion.
However, not all enslaved people in the country became free immediately. The proclamation only applied to those states that had seceded from the Union and not to those that remained loyal or were under Union control. Moreover, many areas where the Confederate army still had power did not enforce it.
The announcement of freedom
That’s why some enslaved people in Texas heard the news of freedom more than two years later. Texas was one of the last strongholds of the Confederacy. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, with his troops and announced that all enslaved people were free by order of the president.
This announcement sparked jubilation and relief among the newly freed people, who celebrated their emancipation with prayers, songs, dances, and feasts. They also began to call June 19 “Juneteenth,” a portmanteau of June and nineteenth
The federal holiday
Since then, Juneteenth has become an annual tradition for African Americans nationwide and beyond. It has also been recognized as a federal holiday since 2021, thanks to a bipartisan bill that President Joe Biden signed.
To learn more about the history and significance of Juneteenth, you can check out these resources:
- Juneteenth.com: A website that provides information on the origin and evolution of Juneteenth and events and activities across the country.
- National Museum of African American History and Culture: A museum that showcases the stories and achievements of African Americans through exhibits, programs, and online resources.
- Juneteenth: What It Is And How It Is Observed: An article by NPR that explains the basics of Juneteenth that everyone should know.
Celebrate with food, music, and art.
Another way to join the Juneteenth community celebration is to enjoy some traditional foods, music, and art associated with this special day. These cultural expressions represent the resilience, creativity, and joy of Black Americans.
Food is an essential part of any celebration, and Juneteenth is no exception. Some of the typical dishes that are served on Juneteenth are:
- Barbecue: Meat such as ribs, brisket, chicken, or sausage grilled or smoked over wood or charcoal. Barbecue is often seasoned with spices and sauces that vary by region and preference.
- Red foods: Foods with a red color, such as watermelon, strawberries, red velvet cake, or hibiscus tea. Red foods symbolize the blood and resilience of the enslaved ancestors, as well as the richness of the African soil.
- Soul food: Foods that are influenced by the cuisine of West Africa, such as collard greens, black-eyed peas, cornbread, or fried chicken. Soul food reflects the adaptation and innovation of the enslaved people who used the ingredients that were available to them
Equally significant, music holds a crucial role in Juneteenth celebrations. For enslaved individuals, music emerged as a mode of communication, a mechanism to manage adversity, and a powerful medium for self-expression. Some of the musical genres that are played on Juneteenth are:
- Spirituals: Songs that are based on Christian hymns and biblical stories, such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “Go Down Moses,” or “Wade in the Water”. Spirituals often had hidden messages of hope and resistance for the enslaved people.
- Blues: Songs that are based on the African American folk music tradition, such as “Strange Fruit,” “Cross Road Blues,” or “Hoochie Coochie Man.” Blues often express the pain and sorrow of the Black experience in America.
- Jazz: Songs that are based on the fusion of African and European musical elements, such as “Take the A Train,” “Summertime,” or “What a Wonderful World.” Jazz often showcases the improvisation and creativity of the Black musicians
Art is another way to celebrate Juneteenth, as it showcases the beauty and diversity of the Black culture. Some of the art forms that are displayed on Juneteenth are:
- Quilts: Fabric pieces that are stitched together to form a pattern or a picture, such as “The Star of Bethlehem,” “The Underground Railroad,” or “The Freedom Quilt.” Quilts often tell stories and convey messages through their colors and shapes.
- Paintings: Visual artworks that are created with brushes and paints, such as “The Banjo Lesson,” “The Migration Series,” or “The Flag is Bleeding.” Paintings often depict the history and identity of the Black people in America.
- Sculptures: Three-dimensional artworks that are created with clay, metal, wood, or other materials, such as “The Emancipation Group,” “The Harriet Tubman Memorial,” or “The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial”. Sculptures often honor the heroes and leaders of the Black community.
To celebrate with food, music, and art on Juneteenth, you can check out these resources:
- Juneteenth Cookbook: A book that features recipes from Black chefs and food writers that celebrate Juneteenth traditions and flavors.
- Juneteenth Jamboree: A TV show that explores the history and culture of Juneteenth through music, dance, poetry, and storytelling.
- Juneteenth Art Show: An online exhibition that showcases the works of Black artists who express their vision of Juneteenth through various media
Get involved with social justice causes
In addition, another effective approach to engaging in the Juneteenth community festivities is by actively participating in social justice initiatives. These movements strive to facilitate the living conditions and rights of Black Americans and other marginalized communities. It’s essential to realize that Juneteenth is more than a triumphant commemoration of freedom. Indeed, it simultaneously serves as a poignant reminder of the continuing fight for equality and justice within America.
The right to vote is a fundamental right that was denied to many Black Americans for a long time. Even today, many barriers and challenges prevent some Black Americans from exercising their right to vote. Furthermore, bolstering voting rights is something within your reach. One can contribute by registering to vote and taking the initiative to educate oneself about various issues and candidates. Additionally, offering your time as a volunteer for voter registration drives is another effective measure. Moreover, making financial contributions to organizations that combat voter suppression also contributes significantly to this cause. Some examples of organizations that work on voting rights are:
- Fair Fight: An organization founded by Stacey Abrams that promotes fair elections and combats voter suppression in Georgia and nationwide.
- [Black Voters Matter]
(1) Juneteenth 2016: Facts on the June 19 holiday celebrating the abolition of … – al.
(2) Americans mark Juneteenth with parties, events, and quiet reflection on the end of slavery.
(3) Utah Juneteenth celebration hopes to ‘build bridges that bring our community closer together’.
(4) Juneteenth: A celebration of Freedom.
(5) Juneteenth: What It Is And How It Is Observed: NPR.
(6) What Does Juneteenth Celebrate? The History of the Holiday | PBS.