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Let’s Talk About Juneteenth

By Leslielazard @leslielazard

Let’s Talk About Juneteenth

It's crazy to think that over a year has passed since the start of the pandemic, and the murder of George Floyd - which resulted in the amplification of the Black Lives Matter movement and protests worldwide. I wrote this post last year for Juneteenth, when the world was right in the middle of so much turmoil, and it seemed like everything was upside down, and thought it would be fitting to share it again this year. We've made some progress since then - George Floyd's murderer actually received a guilty verdict, and just this week President Biden signed off on a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday - but we still have such a long way to go. I'll be reflecting today, and spending time teaching and learning with Sebastian. A few ideas of how you can celebrate the day are towards the end of this post. Happy Juneteenth!


I've always been knowledgeable about the general basics surrounding Juneteenth, but have never actively celebrated it the same way I would actively celebrate a holiday such as the Fourth of July or Memorial Day. I do want to change that moving forward, and the first steps to doing so are simply to just acknowledge and reflect on the day, and to become more knowledgable about the history and traditions behind the day.

So, what exactly is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Quick history lesson - President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, declaring freedom for all Confederate-held slaves starting January 1, 1863. Even though Lincoln issued the proclamation, the reality is that "freedom" was still really difficult to enforce, especially in states like Texas where there were minimal Union troops.

On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger, an officer in the Union Army, issued an order in Galveston, Texas: "The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free." Granger's order laid the foundation for Juneteenth, the oldest nationally-observed celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

How is Juneteenth usually celebrated?

Juneteenth celebrations range from educational activities such as lectures and exhibitions about African-American culture, to social gatherings such as festivals, picnics or barbecues with family, friends and loved ones. There's really no right or wrong way to celebrate. I'll be with my son this weekend, and I'm hesitant to do any type of social gathering with him. We'll most likely watch or read something educational together as a start this year, and maybe venture out for an activity next year if Covid allows.

I've heard a lot about celebrating with red drinks and food...

Yep, so have I! I actually was really curious to find out more behind the red food and drink traditions after hearing more about it the past few weeks. The backbone of any Juneteenth celebration is going to be your red drink - it's a must have. Red beverages are symbolic of West African tribes like the Asante and Yoruba that were forced into slavery, as their customs included animal blood served as an offering to ancestors and gods on special occasions. The color red is also a representation of the blood of slaves, and has come to symbolize strength and resilience in African-American culture. Having a menu that includes other red foods such as watermelon, red velvet cake, etc. are also pretty customary for the holiday as well.

Is anyone celebrating this year? I'd love to hear about your plans if you have any!

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