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Celebrating Juneteenth!

June is packed for many folks as the start of summer, Pride month, Gun Violence Awareness Month all coincide during this month.

The month of June might mean more time outside with loved ones or celebrating the beautifully diverse ways that each human in the LGBTQ+ community shows up at various events and parades. 

For others, June marks the month to raise greater awareness for safer alternatives to gun violence in the form of community activities and resource fairs.

June also marks the start of a very important and celebratory month for those in the Black community- Juneteenth! 

This federal holiday, June 19th, became such just a few years ago in 2021. For some Black families, Juneteenth has been celebrated for a long time and for other families, Juneteenth has only more recently become a consistent celebration.

Just as commercializing other important historical and cultural celebrations like Black History Month, Women’s History Month and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, so too has Juneteenth become commercialized.

Though everyday folks may not be able to stop this from happening, there is still celebration to be had and joy to be found!

Along with many other aspects of Black culture, the story of Juneteenth is expanded upon at length by the National Museum of African American Art and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C.

The first Juneteenth is described as follows:

“On June 19, 1865, nearly two years after President Abraham Lincoln emancipated enslaved Africans in America, Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas with news of freedom. More than 250,000 African Americans embraced freedom by executive decree in what became known as Juneteenth or Freedom Day. With the principles of self-determination, citizenship, and democracy magnifying their hopes and dreams, those Texans held fast to the promise of true liberty for all.”

Kelly Navies, NMAAHC museum specialist and oral historian, expands on the elements of family time, honoring the past, and a celebrational look towards the future, sharing that,

“Each year when my family celebrates Juneteenth, our flyers boldly request that each guest bring something ‘Red.’

We then add examples, like red soda pop, watermelon, apples, or even red beans. Folks bring these items without much thinking about their origin. In fact, the roots of the symbolic efficacy of the color red can be traced to West Africa, where it has been associated with strength, spirituality, life, and death.

Furthermore, culinary historians, trace the color to certain foods that traveled to the Americas along with the Africans during the trans-Atlantic slave trade, such as hibiscus and the kola nut.

So, this year at Juneteenth, as you take a long swallow from a cool drink of hibiscus iced tea, or red punch, remember the ancestors who sacrificed, remember the blood shed in the struggle, remember the collective strength of people of the African diaspora, and finally remember the spirituality and transcendent joy that enabled us to overcome.”

Please find other helpful resources regarding Juneteenth and Black history and culture here: https://nmaahc.si.edu/juneteenth and

Happy Juneteenth, everyone!

 

By Rebecca Berry, Director of Strategic Initiatives, June 18th, 2024, Domestic Violence Network (DVN)