(And How To Celebrate!)
Juneteenth is a holiday that’s growing in popularity and you may be wondering what it is. We had some questions too! And as an agency built upon embracing diversity, we feel inclined to know exactly what this holiday is all about, what we should be doing about it, and then share what we learned with you.
In short, Juneteenth is about Americans celebrating freedom from slavery. There are several other similar holidays that essentially have rolled into this annual celebration, but the bottom line is it’s a day to commemorate the historic shift away from many years of brutal oppression.
Although July 4th, 1776 is the day that’s synonymous with freedom for many of us, countless Americans would live and die before the same privileges were offered to everyone. So for many people, specifically in the Black community, Juneteenth is the real day of freedom.
This holiday actually started a long time ago in Galveston, Texas – 1865 to be exact. Even though Abe Lincoln’s famous Emancipation Proclamation had been given a couple years prior, rural communities, especially in the South, weren’t quick to cut ties with their free labor. But on June 19 of ’65, Texas joined the new era of abolishing slavery, a crucial step towards equality.
The long answer would involve popular traditions like barbecuing, parades, rodeos, and the consumption of red food and drinks.
But in these complicated and often divisive time in the States where many are looking to rectify the cultural chasms and gain new perspective on those different from us, the best response to Juneteenth is one that uses the day to assess the diversity and inclusion of your immediate home, work, and community.
Cmon owner Calvin Nowell likes to say, “Look around the room and ask, ‘Who’s not here?’ That’s a starting point to building an inclusive climate.”
On a more practical level, use this holiday as a celebration of entrepreneurship by supporting Black-owned businesses. Step outside your Netflix rut to explore TV shows and movies that are traditionally associated with the Black community. Listen to R&B, rap, and gospel music, and do some reading on the history behind those genres and why they mean more to some races. If you want to go the extra mile, offer the day off to your employees or as a day to volunteer for non-profits working in the Black community.
It’s never too late to start a new tradition. So if you’re longing for more equality in your world, use Juneteenth as your day to take a step in that direction.