What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the Year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.-Frederick Douglass
July 4th or Independence Day is a federal holiday set aside to observe the signing of the Declaration of Independence, giving birth to what we know as the United States of America as an independent nation. It is commemorated with fireworks, family gatherings, and cookouts. However, while America was celebrating newfound independence, blacks were still enslaved. Every year many African-Americans celebrate this holiday in some way and overlook June 19th, affectionately known as Juneteenth.
As history wrote it, Juneteenth (June 19th, 1865, 1866) is the day that marked the end of slavery for all slaves, or the day slaves were told they were free. This day was used to gather lost family members and instill values of racial uplift and self-improvement to younger generations. On this day, blacks gave religious sermons, sang spirituals, prepared “slave food delicacies” or soul food, played games, and developed new family traditions.
Today, Juneteenth is still celebrated. Many states use it to acknowledge African-American freedom by emphasizing achievement and education. People also use this day to reflect, rejoice, self-asses, and plan for the future. In the wake of recent events, I think it is time to rekindle the flame of reflection, rejoicing, rebuilding, and reconnecting with each other and our surrounding communities.
Rather than celebrating a holiday that was not designed to acknowledge freedom for all, why not celebrate the oldest day in history that marked liberty for people of color. If you do not already recognize Juneteenth, it is time you started. If you do not know how to begin, check out the list below.
Ways to Celebrate Juneteenth
Begin celebrating in your own home. Educate yourself and your family about this day. Read, read, and read some more! We teach our children about the 4th of July, let us start teaching them about this important day in their history!
Contact your Alderman and ask if you and your neighbors can block off your street for a Juneteenth festival in your neighborhood. Organize activities that are centered around the principles of this day.
Ask your pastor and other church leaders to hold services where sermons are given to honor God and our ancestors (virtually, of course). You can also suggest a prayer service commemorating this day with a focus on praying for the future.
Use your social media accounts and platforms to create positive posts about Juneteenth.
Support black businesses all day on this day.
Reconnect with members of your community and discuss ways everyone can rebuild for the greater good.
Decorate the outside of your home with signage containing facts, recipes, spirituals, etc. all acknowledging Juneteenth.
Host a virtual Juneteenth celebration with friends and family. Exchange recipes, discuss/remind each other of our ancestor’s triumphs, and create new plans for the second half of the Year.
These are a few ways you can begin celebrating this historic day. If you already honor this day, continue to do so and encourage others to do the same.
Now more than ever is the time for people of color to unite by remembering our history and the promises of the future as we continue to forge ahead. An unfavorable fraction of our history is repeating itself right before our very eyes. Why not repeat some of the positive portions of it to serve as reminders of what we as a people can do amid chaos and calamity if we come together as one to celebrate.
Contributing writer ,Liz Lampkin is an author, speaker and lifestyle writer. You can find her on social media @Lizlampkin.