You know what I stumbled upon recently? Juneteenth. I think I like it. I am a little surprised I haven’t heard of this holiday, celebrating freedom, and Black American history before. But I’m glad that now I have and I wanted to introduce Juneteenth to you if you haven’t heard of it yet. Here’s what we can learn from Juneteenth.
*This was originally posted on IG, June, 2019. Update in June, 2021*
– As of 2021 Juneteenth is now legal a holiday –
What is Juneteenth?
Apparently, Juneteenth is a day in history I missed. From what I can gather, people celebrate now that slavery ended in the U.S. then, but not until 1983. Why? Because newly freed slaves then celebrated on June 19th in 1865.
Little bit confused? Me too. Essentially, it’s an old celebration. But it’s notable because of a weird time-lapse. American slaves were freed by President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (official January 1, 1863). But it took 2.5 years for the slaves in Texas to learn about it their freedom.
Why not? No one told them. *GASP* (Why are we not surprised, though?)
Actually, we don’t really know for sure what went down (or the lack of what went down). I read up on it from different sources, but it still isn’t clear what the true narrative is. But we do know this: When the former Texan slaves found out they were free, they partied! Pretty simple. And now, some African American families celebrate and party on this day too.
What does Juneteenth have to do with you?
By some standards, Juneteenth might not seem like it has much to do with us. It isn’t an official holiday (*Strike that! Now it is!*) and it actually doesn’t seem widely celebrated.
But it could be and maybe should be. Juneteenth might be a way I can stand with my Black sisters and brothers. Yes I’m White(ish)–being a third culture kid (TKD) has me all confused. But I’m proactively trying to learn a new narrative because the story of my Black sisters and brothers matters. Black lives matter. (Yes, all people matter too–“people matter” is the basis of all justice work we do at Average Advocate. However, historically and in modern times, black lives haven’t/don’t matter, which is why fighting racism is still such a huge way we can live justly. Read more from Reggie’s Your Voice on Racism post about the phrase, “Black Lives Matter”). If we call attention to Black voices we position ourselves to grieve with those who grieve. And for Juneteenth, to celebrate with those who celebrate. We are not separate unless I live in separation. Instead, I see that my Black friends care about this day, and so now I care.
Go Here For These Lessons From Juneteenth
Slavery and Juneteenth
And this is something to celebrate, because slavery did suck (and it still sucks).
I spend a lot of my time doing anti-trafficking work, which some consider modern slavery. A few years back I wrote a course for parents to talk to their kids about this and protecting kids from sexual exploitation (you can still get the first module from my blog free–its fun, try it here!). To bring kids an understanding of human trafficking and modern slavery, we go into the history of slavery in the United States. I can’t tell you how many, but we read a lot of books about slavery that summer! And you know what is sad? In all those children’s books I read and in all of the research I found on historic slavery, I never ran into Juneteenth.
Those slaves who lived without freedom deserve to be acknowledged in the books. I wonder, why is their story not being told?
If I lived in bondage when I was actually free–and then realized I was free–wouldn’t I want to celebrate too?
(Holy cow! Or should I say holy Longhorn? For my Jesus people out there, I can come up with so many spiritual metaphors for this, are you with me?)
In my home we value both freedom and justice. If celebrating Juneteenth is another way I can bring those values to my kids, then let’s rock it! Now I just need to figure out how to celebrate it! Any ideas?
Have you ever heard of Juneteenth before? Let me know in the comments what you think of it!