juneteenth

Nobody’s free until everybody’s free. —Fannie Lou Hamer

On June 19, 1865, the descendants of involuntary African immigrants remained enslaved two and half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas and troops alerted slaves of their freedom. The unimaginable joy! The ability to seek out and reunite with family members who were sold… The newfound ability to get an education, necessary for self-sufficiency… The ability to dictate your life and maintain your family without fear of a member being bartered for goods, services, or another human. The experience of African (Black) Americans who received their freedom is one of resilience, hard work, and trying to find joy in any situation.

Growing up partially in New Jersey and Missouri, we did not learn about Juneteenth in school. While there was an awareness of the delayed freedom of all slaves, my family did not formally celebrate Juneteenth. We acknowledged the freedom of Black bodies and spirits on America’s Independence Day.

My awareness and acknowledgment of Juneteenth are more intentional as an adult. Over the last decade, my daily self-reflections included ideas of culture and representation. I see myself as a Black American. When considering my sociocultural identity, my ethnicity is Black American. By my definition, Black Americans are the descendants of Africans who survived the middle passage and were enslaved in the United States of America and cannot directly link their ethnicity back to the specific countries or groups on the continent of Africa. I acknowledge Juneteenth as the first cultural holiday created by Black Americans. The beauty of Juneteenth is that it does not and should not only be celebrated by Black Americans but by ALL Americans.

Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021. Having the holiday legally recognized in at least 28 states and the District of Columbia is significant to the continued recognition of the day of freedom for Black people in America and the connection to the necessity of freedom of ALL humans.

Juneteenth is about freedom, love, joy, hope, resilience, persistence, connectedness, and bringing Americans together. America is sometimes described as a melting pot. I do not subscribe to that metaphor of the richness of our country. I see the tossed salad that allows us to see the unique beauty of involuntary and voluntary immigrants, migrants, and those who seek asylum in our country while integrating the abundance of cultures for one inclusive nation.

Celebrating Juneteenth creates space for enhancing cultural humility while listening, learning, researching, and creating. Juneteenth should open the minds of ALL Americans to consider their own heritage, document their history, and share their cultural traditions as well.

While there is no one way to celebrate Juneteenth, the renewed joy of liberty and justice for all, you can start with your palette. Red should be a prominent color on your Juneteenth menu. The traditions of hibiscus tea, red velvet cake, red beans and rice, strawberries, and sauce, both hot and barbeque, will set the tone for your Juneteenth table. Consider side dishes that Black Americans associate with prosperity and good fortune such as black-eyed peas, cornbread, collard greens, and creamed corn.

Consider the following ways to celebrate freedom:

VIEW The Grandmother of Juneteenth, Why all Americans should honor Juneteenth (includes vivid, sobering imagery)

SING the Star-Spangled Banner and Lift Every Voice and Sing

GROOVE Florence Price: ‘Juba‘ (from Symphony No. 3), Lara Downes with Tonality: ‘I Dream A World‘, Sister Sledge, ‘We Are Family’, Stevie Wonder, ‘Love’s in Need of Love Today’, William Grant Still, Symphony NO. 1, Afro- American Symphony’

DANCE The Soul Rebels at Ardmore Music Hall,  The Re-Emancipation of Social Dance Juneteenth Dance Party at Christ Church Neighborhood House, Longwood Gardens

VISIT The Please Touch Museum, Eastern State Penitentiary, National Constitution Center, The Museum of the American Revolution, The African American Museum in Philadelphia, Millennial Juneteenth Festival, Delaware County’s Juneteenth Celebration, Juneteenth Events in Chester County

Happy Juneteenth!