On June 19, Americans will celebrate Juneteenth. Juneteenth is a joyous holiday celebrated among friends and family with song, dance, story-telling, food, and prayer. But the holiday commemorates and marks timeless truths as well as a historic moment. Historically, Juneteenth commemorates a defining moment in American history – June 19, 1865, conveying the news of the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of slavery by Union soldiers to former slaves in Texas, where the word had been slow to arrive. It reflects the universal dreams of freedom and community. It celebrates the resilience and steadfastness of the human spirit and the achievements and contributions of African-Americans to this country. And it carries the haunting reminder that the country has not yet rendered a national accounting for the harms done to African-Americans.
It is significant to celebrate Juneteenth now, as the moral clarification about racism and inequality in the United States brought about by the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshad Brooks, and countless others still manifest an overwhelming response by people regardless of race and nationality. It is also meaningful in the wake of more than a year’s worth of peaceful protests demonstrating the public’s grief and discontent in this nation’s law enforcement.
The poem “We Rose,” by Kristina Kay, has been called the “official poem” of Juneteenth:
From Africa’s heart, we rose
Already a people, our faces ebon, our bodies lean,
Skills of art, life, beauty and family
Crushed by forces we knew nothing of, we rose
Survive we must, we did,
We rose to be you, we rose to be me,
Above everything expected, we rose
To become the knowledge we never knew,
Dream, we did
Act we must
Here is just a sampling of the many virtual Juneteenth celebrations planned around the country:
- Live-streamed Juneteenth music festival: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wrangler-presents-national-juneteenth-virtual-music-festival-618th-20th-tickets-150145076967.
- Virtual Juneteenth music festival: https://www.juneteenthmusicfestival.com/
- Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Celebrates Juneteenth: https://cleoparkerdance.org/tickets/
- Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire Juneteenth 2021 celebration: http://blackheritagetrailnh.org/2021-juneteenth-celebration/
To learn more about Juneteenth, here are a few of many resources:
- History of Juneteenth: https://juneteenth.com/history/
- National Museum of African-American History & Culture (NMAAHC), Celebrating Juneteenth: https://nmaahc.si.edu/blog-post/celebrating-juneteenth
- NMAAHC, The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth: https://nmaahc.tumblr.com/post/121925744985/the-historical-legacy-of-juneteenth
- Juneteenth: Lift Every Voice film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMlRXi5ZQ5U
- Ten songs for Juneteenth celebration: http://blackyouthproject.com/10-songs-for-your-juneteenth-celebration/
- Juneteenth playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7sOD2eDcmHYhDltij9bjis?si=8dc3f201057a4b9d
- “What is Juneteenth?” by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.: https://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/what-is-juneteenth/.
We are wishing you a happy, meaningful Juneteenth!