Text of the word Juneteenth

This Is How We Juneteenth

For many Black people, Juneteenth used to be one of those things we would try to explain to other people, without really being able to explain it. Like Homecoming and Freaknik, you just have to be there. It’s family BBQs with play cousins at the park, Uncle’s grilling sandals, and Auntie’s two steps you "don’t know nothing about." In the weeks leading up to America’s "freedom" on July 4th, this one is ours. 
But by now, most Americans (should) know what Juneteenth is. Amid the flurry of racial justice conversations, the Blackest holiday ever burst into the national conversation last year and stood out as a specific, albeit too simplistic, way to support our community’s ever-relentless cry for freedom. 
Historically, June 19th marks the day Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger read "General Order No. 3" to enslaved Black Americans in Galveston, Texas, officially freeing them — months after the Confederate army’s surrender and two full years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth aka Freedom Day, aka Jubilee Day, aka Cel-Liberation Day, aka Second Independence Day, or Emancipation Day is an annual celebration of that liberated energy — a day to commune in full-teeth-smile joy, swig strawberry sodas, and exist for no one else to watch, police, copy, or co-opt. It’s a time to defy confusion, delay, misinformation, terror, and violence as our ancestors did. To live a day as we should all of our days: free. 
And while Juneteenth has been circled on the summer calendar for Black people since its inception, its recent addition to the national calendar has been swift and full force. Scores of brands — from Nike to Peleton to Apple Music — have rolled out honorific campaigns in honor of Emancipation Day. Just this week, President Biden signed it into law making it a federal holiday. A nice gesture at best, though if lawmakers have now decided to be on the right side of Black history, we’d prefer that Ohio legislators more fully investigate the killing of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant at the hands of Columbus police; that Georgia’s Board of Education's overturn its recent decision to ban Critical Race Theory from all state school curriculums; and that state governments across the country turn their attention to the numerous reparations bills currently being considered in congresses.
This ongoing two-step, for and against Black liberation in this country, is even older than Juneteenth. Part of the No. 3 general orders that proclaimed the abolition of slavery encouraged newly freed enslaved folks to “remain quietly at their present homes” — with their former enslavers. A system that frees you but then tells you to remain with your captors cannot be a just one, and the double consciousness of our delayed liberation persists to this day.
That dichotomy is bred into the existence of the holiday itself. By all accounts, Juneteenth wasn’t meant to be a celebration, and saw varied, if inconsistent, support to become a national holiday before 2020. Our grandparents’ grandparents had to make do with leftover freedoms — the chitlins of servitude — but the fullness of our joyful feast won’t be denied this year.
Juneteenth is a reminder of that same ancestral ingenuity that runs through our veins today, because celebrating this year means loving on ourselves and each other, out loud, and in the fullest way possible. 
This Juneteenth, we’re celebrating our liberation in all its forms because our political, cultural, and personal freedoms are inextricably linked. When we talk of freedom this Jubilee Day, we must talk about it as a practice in our daily lives. Just as we speak on autonomy and abolition on the national stage, we must also speak on owning our stories in the classroom, claiming our credit at work, and protecting our bodies, voices, and choices when we walk out of our front door. 
This time, we’re celebrating in the ways we’ve always known how to (with block parties, good music, and potato salad cook-offs at the park with the crew) in the ways we’ve learned to over the past year (with an eye towards rest and listening to our spirits when they shift) and in ways we’re going to show up for our future (with an understanding that our freedom is not a declaration from on high, but a demand driven by community action, education, and systematic restructuring). 
Here are a few ways we’re going to celebrate this year. And TRUST we will, because this Juneteenth is a reminder that strawberry soda tastes lovely in the summer, but liberation is even sweeter.
Turn Up and Show Up:
After more than a year of life inside, outside is opening back up, so we can finally celebrate Juneteenth together. As state restrictions loosen and shot girl summer officially arrives, local Juneteenth picnics and neighborhood block parties will be going on throughout the week culminating with a full out celebration June 19th. If you’re looking for a slightly bigger turn up, major cities are also hosting events. Los Angeles’ historically Black neighborhood will host the Leimert Park Rising celebration, Dallas will host a four-day music festival featuring Erykah Badu and Lil’ Kim, and organizations like Urban Camp Weekend in Texas will host an uninterrupted weekend of outdoor Black joy — a fitting tribute to the home state of Juneteenth. 
Juneteenth is also the time to spotlight how far we’ve come and how we far we still must go in our fight for liberation. Black Voters Matter will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Riders in Birmingham with The Blackest Bus in America tour, and cities from Chicago to Charlotte will host Juneteenth freedom march and rallies, pushing lawmakers to uphold that declaration promised so many years ago. 
Fellowship and Food: 
If you’re looking for something a little more lowkey, why not pull up to the dining room table. Red foods are on the menu for Juneteenth, to commemorate our bondage and resilience. From strawberry soda and punch, to red velvet cake and hot links, you can make your own backyard the let out spot for your Juneteenth fellowship. If you can’t (or don’t want to) cook, consider giving those coins to independent Black owned restaurants, businesses, and events that foreground our culture and joy. 
Learn Our Liberation:
If those who don’t know their history are destined to repeat it, then those who do are meant to rectify it. Consider exploring the history of Juneteenth through On Juneteenth by Dr. Annette Gordon-Reed, a fascinating read on the holiday and historical truths. If that whets your liberation appetite, try Haymarket books Abolition starter kit to continue the conversation. If you’re more of a visual learner, consider a viewing of Miss Juneteenth, Channing Godfrey Peoples’ excellent rumination on the concept of freedom for Black women today, or Vice TV’s upcoming Juneteenth special.
Rest and Be Free:
That’s the whole tweet. Stay in *your* home and be free — whatever that means to you. As my senior editor Kathleen Newman-Bremang so succinctly put it, we must ensure that our worth is not measured by our weariness, and that our desire to hold space for rest is not drowned by our need to move when others call on us. Resting well gives space for regeneration and for a reimagining of liberation on our own terms. To choose one’s self as a Black person is an act of liberation every day, and to choose it on a day when the historically recommended course of action was to stay in the house of one’s enslavement, it is downright radical, and perhaps the most free you can be. So rest easy, fam. We deserve it. 

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