7 Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Juneteenth With Your Family
What it’s all about and how to honor the spirit of the holiday.
You might get the family together every summer to celebrate Juneteenth, or you might be hearing about the holiday for the first time. Maybe you’ve heard of it, but you’re not sure what it’s all about. If you fall into any of these categories, we’d like to offer up a few thoughtful suggestions, like:
1. Learn the History
It all started at the end of the Civil War with the Emancipation Proclamation, a document intended to end slavery, but only in the Confederate States. That meant that Union states, especially those that bordered Confederate states, were still legally allowed to use enslaved labor. News spread pretty slowly back then, and slave owners did everything they could to keep the Emancipation Proclamation from being enforced, so for most enslaved people, life didn’t change right away.
Two years later, a bill abolishing slavery – the 13th amendment – was officially made into a law. The following summer, Union General Gordon Granger took the message directly to the South to declare all enslaved people were free. Formerly enslaved people spread the news across the South, often at great personal risk. Today, Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States and is sometimes called Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Liberation Day.
There’s so much more to learn about the holiday, and the brave individuals who spread the message of freedom to their brothers and sisters throughout the South, so make sure to check out our list of Juneteenth must-reads to get you started!
2. Seek Out and Support Black-Owned Businesses
Shop local whenever possible and make a conscious effort to seek and patronize Black-owned restaurants and shops. Financial support is one of the most direct ways we can play an active role in the fight for equality.
3. Pay for Black Media Including Books, Movies, Music, and Publishers
By subscribing to a publication you enjoy, you’re helping them make better content while reducing the amount of annoying pop-up ads that spring up every time you switch to a new article. Purchasing that album you listen to on repeat will put more dollars directly into the creator’s pocket than a year's worth of streaming. Buying a print from an artist will allow that artist to purchase supplies to create their next great masterpiece. When you pay for the media you consume, you’re becoming part of a system that directly enables creators to do more creating, which means they can make more of the great content you love!
4. Amplify Black Voices
That fantastic Black-owned restaurant you just discovered? Why not leave them a great Yelp review? Or share that playlist you made with your favorite Black artists with some music-loving friends! Social media has made it easy to share what we love with our friends, family, and followers. So hit “like” and “share” on that music video, start a conversation about that article, and inspire others with artwork that inspires you. Black stories matter, so share them!
5. Give Back and Get Involved
If you have the means, donating is terrific, but you don’t need a single dime to give back because time is also a valuable resource. Countless community-based organizations all over the country focus on the needs of Black youth – and most of them are only able to operate because of the dedication of their volunteers. Check with your local schools and community centers to find out how you and your family can get involved.
Consider what Juneteenth is all about: how is your life affected – for better or worse – by the color of your skin? If thinking about the topic of race makes you feel uncomfortable, dig deep and ask yourself why. What’s more important: being comfortable talking about a “touchy subject” or working together to fix a generations-old problem? Reflect on your answers and share them with others because you can’t begin to solve a problem if you can’t even talk about it.
We may still have a long way to go, but we can still celebrate how much progress we’ve made. Spend the holiday doing things that bring you joy. You could get outside for a barbeque, serving traditional dishes with friends and family. Or keep it low-key by enjoying a good book or movie by your favorite Black artists. Maybe use the holiday as an excuse to discover new Black artists and creators to share with others!