The current climate of the world is bringing some important facts to light. We went from a period of quarantine and coronavirus pandemic to the focus on an ongoing racial pandemic and revolution, in the blink of an eye. This is definitely a core time for learning. Going outside of your existing knowledge base is key to understanding what’s going on. One thing that has gotten a lot of attention is Juneteenth. The celebration and holiday around Juneteenth isn’t new but for some people, it is
Juneteenth is a celebration that honors the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19,1865 news of the end of slavery reached a group of people still being kept as slaves in Texas. While the Emancipation Proclamation was activated in 1863 and the Civil War had ended, it took 2.5 years for that news to reach Texas. And even when the news reached, some of the slaves were not freed right away. Juneteenth is seen by most as a representation of the constant delay of freedom and use of systemic and institutional oppression of Black people in America. While slavery “ended” in 1863, the ripple effect is being felt in modern day times.
Juneteenth is not a federal holiday but thanks to the efforts of State Legislator Al Edwards, it became recognized as an official state holiday in most states on January 1, 1980. It is celebrated across the United States and has been for years. For some people, the Juneteenth celebration is a tradition and deeply rooted in family activities. For others, visiting a museum, partaking in cultural activities, reading new African American literature and expanding their knowledge are ways they celebrate as well. Last year, I spent Juneteenth with an exceptional group of students at Meyer Levin Middle School in Brooklyn. The school community puts on an amazing Juneteenth celebration that incorporates the arts, music, and education into the meaning behind the holiday and what it represents.
The students used the K12 Sneaker Essentials pilot program to present their stories, the representation of Juneteenth and how race in America currently affects Black people. The students referenced historical happenings like Black Wall Street and discussed the importance of buying Black, building the community and entrepreneurship. Knowing about these historical events from early and how it impacted our community is a major key and can change the trajectory of their young lives. If you’re looking for ways to celebrate the day, you can start by watching The Juneteenth Celebration recap video from the Meyer Levin celebration, posted above.