Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day, has both a rich history and special meaning. This holiday marks the anniversary of when Texas learned that President Lincoln had declared slavery illegal. It was the final state to hear the news on June 19, 1865, hence the name “Juneteenth” today. Many participate in parades, music festivals and community celebrations in the same way as the 4th of July and Memorial Day.
In 2020, and for the first time since its inception, multiple well-known companies have announced that they will either honor or recognize Juneteenth as a sign of support for the Black community. The growing list of organizations that have come forward to “bring lasting changes for inclusion and equality” are as follows:
- Best Buy
- Ford/General Motors
- NFL (National Football League)
After being postponed (twice), our family celebrated “Freedoms” connected to the Juneteenth emancipation by participating in the primary election in June. It was a great opportunity to discuss the significance of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and access to the 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. We made sure that our children understood that the unalienable rights are also a great, shared responsibility as American citizens. We downloaded sample ballots in advance and cast paper ballots together at eye-level for the first time.
Activities deeply rooted in African-American tradition include museums and programs that specialize in promoting its culture. This year, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and the King Center postponed in-person parade and music festivals but provided historic programming online. There were also drop-off sites to feed those who are food-deprived and most impacted by COVID-19 crisis. We enjoyed reminiscing about last year’s participation while looking for creative ways to support black-owned businesses online.
Any excuse for me to prepare a family feast in my Jazzy Air® 2 power wheelchair is a fun and easy choice. This year, we commemorated Juneteenth with some of the culture-rich foods with red-hues that represent its culture: watermelon, strawberry soda/kola, hibiscus tea, and more. Dad and the boys actually grilled outside while I prepared greens, black-eyed peas and teacakes inside. In addition to food colors, we discussed the significance of the celebratory flag colors. The colors red, white, and blue echo the American flag to symbolize that the enslaved people and their descendants were Americans. The star in the middle of the flag paid homage to Texas, while the bursting new star on the horizon of the red and blue fields represents a new freedom and a new people. It was a delicious and introspective end to a historic day that we hope they will remember and include in future traditions with their children.
Finally, in addition to Freedom Day, we also celebrated Father’s Day this month. In many homes, Dads are the guiding light, leaders and lifeline but in many homes, this is a day of mourning for those who lost their fathers. In either case, it is critical as a community to understand the importance of fathers. So many people don’t have the opportunity to do it, and we should embrace the men who make the commitment, go the extra mile and represent their place in our hearts, homes and society.