Juneteenth, Our Newest National Holiday

Most news outlets have done a great job of educating the non-BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Color) American citizens about Juneteenth and what it means to African-Americans.

juneteenthThe short version is that although slavery ended officially with the Civil War on April 9, 1865, it took another two and a half months for the news to reach Texas, specifically Galveston, a southernmost point and the port city where Africans were still being brought into slavery until the last possible minute. So for African-Americans, June 19th is a day that represents true emancipation. For almost 160 years, this celebration has been a joyful commemoration of the day among African-American families and friends. Although there is no one “right” way to celebrate Juneteenth, the holiday usually involves traditional foods that include anything red such as hibiscus tea, red beans and rice, red velvet cake, and of course barbecue—which often has a reddish-brown sauce. There is typically music, dancing, and a chance to celebrate African as well as African-American roots. Official recognition of this holiday is new to the United States, but descendants of those who were finally liberated from slavery have been celebrating this ever since 1865. I chose this image to share because it emphasizes the power of words and the power of law, while also showing embedded photos from history within the image of a smiling African-American woman wearing an American flag; to me, this image says there is much to remember and yet something to celebrate, but we are far from “done.” Many who celebrate this holiday as part of their history and culture say they are “free-ish,” acknowledging a legal status that does not quite line up with the daily experience of being a person of color in America. Just like news of the end of the Civil War and the ultimate end of legal slavery in the United States took a while to reach everywhere, the de facto experience of true freedom for everyone regardless of color is still taking its time in arriving. None of us are free until all of us are free. I hope the actual day yesterday and the holiday today (for those who had it) gave a chance to consider and reflect.