Juneteenth: A Brief History and Modern Day Celebration

By Raven Young

It’s officially June! A time to celebrate the end of the school year, planning summer vacations, PRIDE month, and one of my favorite holidays- Juneteenth! In the last few years or so, Juneteenth has become a nationally celebrated holiday, recognized by a handful of states and increasingly popular by black millennials.

If you don’t know what Juneteenth is, I’m here to give you a brief introduction to it and some fun ways to celebrate! According to the website Juneteenth.com, June 19th or “Juneteenth” is the oldest commemorative holiday marking the end of slavery in the U.S. It originated in Galveston, Texas, in 1865, as General Granger read the following “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.” 

In recent years, Juneteenth has become a day to celebrate the strength of our ancestors and a middle finger to the 4th of July, which in my opinion, has no importance to the Black community. 

Now, you might be asking yourself, how on earth do I celebrate this momentous, awesome, inspiring day? Look no further as I have a few fun suggestions that you and yours can take to your Juneteenth celebration!

  1. A cookout/BBQ- I mean DUH! What better way to celebrate than a fun (and safe/COVID-Free) get-together. Bust out the grill and spades table, call up the cousins and have fun. 
  2. Set up an ancestor altar- This is my family’s favorite tradition. It’s an ongoing project as those we love the transition from this life to the next, of course, but on Juneteenth, set up a sacred space to honor those who are no longer with us and who sacrificed to give us a better life. My family includes photos of ancestors/elders who have passed, candles, a small food offering (usually coffee), and sometimes a few precious mementos. On the morning of Juneteenth, we will sit at the altar, reflect and give thanks to those who came before us. 
  3. Spend the day with a heart of gratitude. Our ancestors and even living elders have endured so much. It’s nothing to take a day and pour all of that love and gratefulness into them. 
  4. Educate- I spend the day celebrating Black art and history by introducing it to my son. I know as a toddler he won’t remember, but it’s something small that his dad and I enjoy doing.
  5. Volunteer/Give back to our community. Pretty self-explanatory, but get out into your communities and give back if you can. Uplifting black and brown lives is a celebration in itself. 

There’s no wrong way to celebrate this day. And I am excited for the day that June 19th becomes just as celebrated and recognized as Thanksgiving or Christmas! 

Raven Young is a contributing writer for the Pedestal Project LLC. Raven is a spiritually driven individual navigating corporate America. Follow her journey and connect on Instagram @raebeyy

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