Juneteenth: What Is It?
Updated: Sep 17
So your company just gave you Juneteenth off for the first time ever in their last-ditch effort to appear diverse and inclusive. You’re probably wondering, “What is Juneteenth anyway?” Unfortunately, many of us didn’t learn about Juneteenth in school. I personally didn’t know what it was or the significance of it until I was in college on the programming board where we curated events around it every year. Around the same time, I met a handful of people who celebrated the holiday, which gave me a better understanding of what it is.
What is it? The holiday, that originated in Texas, is now being called to be recognized as a federal holiday. Also known as “Juneteenth Independence Day”, “Emancipation Day”, or “Freedom Day”, Juneteenth is recognized as the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the U.S. The holiday received its name by combining June and 19. On June 19, 1865, enslaved African-Americans in Galveston, Texas, were told they were free. To be clear, Juneteenth didn’t happen until two years after the Emancipation Proclamation - let that register, it took over two years for slaves in Galveston to get the news that they were free.
Juneteenth has been celebrated for centuries but is just now receiving the coverage that holidays such as Independence Day and Labor Day get because of the Black Lives Matter Movement, and due to Trump announcing his rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma that day, which has since rescheduled.
How is it celebrated? Celebrations are different amongst communities but often include events such as picnics, rodeos, religious components, and educational services for children. In some cities, they even hold pageants for Miss Juneteenth. Most people celebrate within their community, but many people go beyond that and celebrate at home and the workplace, as well.
Over the years Juneteenth has evolved and changed from how it was originally commemorated. Traditionally, it was celebrated with a range of activities from fishing to barbecuing and baseball to entertain masses, which is a tradition many continue to host to this day. According to Juneteenth’s official website, there are even certain foods that became popular with the holiday like strawberry soda-pop. However, it is important to remember the purpose of Juneteenth, which is to be an educational opportunity surrounding the celebration.
How can you celebrate? If you don’t currently have a community leader or an organization that has created Juneteenth celebrations in your area, we urge you to push for it or find a way to celebrate on your own.
Here are our suggestions:
In your community: Host a Juneteenth Flag Raising. Invite school bands, elected officials, and business and civic leaders to participate. Or connect with your Homeowners Associations to create a block party aimed at educating and celebrating with neighbors.
In your workplace / at school: Bring in a guest speaker to teach history and break down stereotypes towards Black communities They can also touch on the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workspace and how to achieve it.
In your home: Create conversations with your friends and family. Discuss this piece of history by touching on its significance or allow loved ones to share their experiences and ancestral history in relation to Juneteenth. You can even make it fun with a Juneteenth trivia.
Here are how other communities have celebrated in the past. No matter how you do it, it is important to educate yourself on this holiday and acknowledge it. Reflect on how you can be better, and do better moving forward.
*Disclaimer: This article was created to inform you about this day, but you should not exploit this holiday as a marketing ploy or for your influencer strategy. That is distasteful and will quickly deem you inauthentic. Instead, we encourage you to continue your research beyond this article. You can learn more about Juneteenth by visiting www.juneteenth.com.