Why I Celebrate Juneteenth

 … and maybe why you should too.

Anybody who knows me knows I don’t like commercialized Holidays.  Retail goes all out to make Holidays real by promoting and creating items to consume from month to month. I still believe Valentine’s Day is a corporate creation and scheme to sell flowers and chocolates.

However, as I have gotten older (and hopefully wiser), I have learned that some Holidays are worth celebrating and pausing to recognize.  For example, I love the emphasis and growth in recent years of celebrating and pausing to recognize Veterans Day, Memorial Day and the MLK Holiday.  Over the years I have even expanded my understanding and reverence for Kwanzaa.  

I recently have started celebrating the Juneteenth holiday.  Now that Juneteenth is a Federal Holiday like most things today there is controversy, misunderstanding of the significance to the holiday.  So, I thought I would share why I celebrate Juneteenth.

What Recognizing Juneteenth Doesn’t Mean

Before I go into why I celebrate Juneteenth, I feel that I must start with what celebrating and recognizing the Holiday does not mean.  There is so much confusion, misinformation, and animosity in our current political climate that good things often get thrown out or cancelled before they are given a chance. 

Recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday does not mean you agree with or support any political ideology.  The Holiday is not a creation of the right or left, the Democrats or Republicans.  Recognizing the Holiday does not mean you support BLM, reparations, or Critical Race Theory.  It does not mean that you agree to, admit to, or acknowledge in any way that you are an oppressor, victim, oppressed, racist, or less patriotic.  I can be both African American /Black and celebrate Juneteenth and the Fourth of July. You can be White and recognize the significance of Juneteenth and not be less American.  

The recognition of Juneteenth is a historic recognition of something very significant which occurred in the history of the United States: the moment when everybody living in the United States of America was free. This should be a celebration for all Americans. That is, it. Simple.

Why a Holiday? An Event Worth celebrating

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, is holiday that represents the moment on June 19,1865 when Union soldiers reached Texas and announced the freedom of all enslaved people. This freedom had been declared by President Lincoln almost two and half years earlier through the Emancipation Proclamation, yet word had not reached out to Texas.

For this one moment all people in America were legally free.

When the United States declared its independence on July 4, 1776, the Founder Fathers were never not free.  They were free to do and live and move without restrictions in most aspects of their lives … The King of England was …. thousands of miles away… and there was no telephone, email, Zoom, or facetime. Our country was establishing itself free of rule by another country. At that time and all the way up to 1862, there were hundreds of thousands of people enslaved in the United States.

We create and celebrate Holidays to mark, remember and commemorate significant events in time. What can be more significant than the day you first tasted freedom!

Today we use any excuse to celebrate and party…. some people don’t even go to work on their Birthdays!  Can you imagine the party and celebration that occurred on the day of and the night that you were legally set free!?! Imagine being born in a prison. The same prison that your parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents were born in. Then suddenly without warning a dream which had been passed down from generation to generation, the promise of being free, finally happened? Can you imagine the happiness and joy? The tears?  The excitement? The jubilation?   Now that’s a party I would love to have attended!!

Why do I celebrate?

So why do I, a person that loathes Holidays, celebrate Juneteenth?  Well I must admit I have a little cultural holiday envy. I am secretly jealous of my friends who have cultural holidays to celebrate yearly.  I’m jealous of my friends who celebrate with pride St. Patrick’s Day, my Caribbean friends who celebrate the country /flag days, my German friends who celebrate Octoberfest, and all the people who have cultural holidays to celebrate.  As an African American who has not been able to trace my heritage/lineage to a country or cultural origin(yet) … I do not have specific celebrations unique to my culture to celebrate.

Juneteenth is not a new celebration or Holiday. I have known about it for many years.  However, I recently started to celebrate it because I thought it would be a great tradition to instill with my children and family. It has been fun to research with my kids how the holiday is traditionally celebrated and discussing the significance of the Holiday.  My daughter is excited bake her Red velvet cake for Juneteenth… and I am excited about my carefully crafted Juneteenth menu.

Now I’m sure soon Juneteenth will become commercialized like most Holiday… t shirts in Walmart, greeting cards … and cheap fireworks sales…TV specials but for now I am just going to enjoy and remember.  You should too.  Go out enjoy a festival or cookout or gathering. Celebrate Freedom.

I have my Juneteenth Flag up and flying.  My USA flag will fly in July and then in the fall my University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!) Flag will fly …because it will be college football season…and people that is not even up for debate! 

Happy Juneteenth!!

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