So What IS Juneteenth about? “Freedom Day” – The Emancipation from Slavery for African-Americans in Texas.
Being a true Texas girl, I’ve celebrated this holiday with my family and our church and local communities my entire life. It wasn’t until my 7th grade year when I brought it up in my “Texas History” class, that I realized that it wasn’t widely acknowledged, taught or celebrated outside of the African-American community. I say this for two reasons: First, if you’re feeling guilty about it- don’t. It’s not your fault if you’ve been ignorant to this historic celebration. If you think about it, every holiday we celebrate in our country, was taught to us in our schools and honored in our communities. Not Juneteenth though. Secondly, to remind you that it is our society’s culture to use the “if we can relate- we will celebrate” logic. ALL of us, as I confessed earlier have been guilty of this. I think that’s what’s always bothered me about this holiday NOT being widely embraced, because it IS so much for all of us.
WHO should celebrate it?
All Americans- but especially Texans! If you’re American, guess what? June 19, 1865 was the FIRST time that every citizen still part of the United States (as it stood post-civil war), regardless of the color of their skin was FREE. Free to be with their families, to keep their children, for women to have freedom over their bodies, for men to have some form of freedom over their futures. THIS day in the God-blessed USA, in the Great State of Texas- every man was legally declared to be a person and not property! Y’all! If there is anything I know as a southern girl is that we know how to be proud! THIS is something to be proud of. THIS is something to celebrate! You might not have known this piece of American history, your history, but Lee Greenwood’s 1984 hit lyrics, “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free” says we DO understand the gravity of freedom and we have been conditioned to honor the victories that afforded it! So it’s not too late for you and your family to start celebrating it! In fact, here’s another relatable thing to know about why Juneteenth is so significant- the liberating news that Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (the law that freed slaves) took a whole 2.5 years to even reach Texas! It was the reading of this military order, on this day that caused the jubilee that we try to recreate each year.
In the words of once enslaved Syrian and latin writer, Publilius Syrus
“ It is better to learn late than never”
HOW can I celebrate?
There are already folks in cities near you planning this annual holiday and like most cultural events, it is a full five-sense experience- so if you’re ready, join in the celebration! These in-person events will give you the opportunity to hear the rhythms/stories, see the people/fashions, touch and purchase the creations of artisans, and MY favorite part… to smell and taste the culinary delights that truly warm the soul. Below are a few of the local events taking place this Saturday June 19th that I’m excited about and I even shared my personal “mama memos”, for that inevitable mental t-chart we talked about at the beginning. Don’t let this limit you though, there are quite a few lists circulating from local news outlets featuring some others- and even some virtual events if you’re not ready to attend in person. This is great news because this means that enough people are finally celebrating in the communities where they live.
Rhythm and Ribs Festival– Round Rock, Tx 4-11:30 p.m.(Old Settlers Park)
Grammy award winning Artists, DJs, Food Vendors, Retail and so much more!
*Parking is $5 and right next to the park, which makes it easy for my family of 6 and our lawn chairs to make the trek. We typically set up and then split up into lines to order food- because it is impossible to choose between fried ribs, jerk chicken, red velvet funnel cakes and everything else that calls our names. We take turns shopping the artisan booths and stay until dark listening to music and dancing outdoors. You can bring outside snacks for those tiny “particular” eaters and I choose park bathroom over porta potty 10/10 times!
Juneteenth Celebration- Hutto, Tx 11a-6p.m. (Hutto City Hall)
11:00am – Ceremony – Community Leaders and Organizations will speak on the historical and significance of the Juneteenth celebration.
12:00pm – 6:00pm – Festival & Vendor Fair with local performers, retailers and food trucks.
*I love this fairly new and small town event and that it kicks off earlier in the day AND with a history lesson. It is free to attend and less crowded than most events due to its infancy and location. This is great for a pre-siesta outing and a special opportunity to witness the powerful story-telling performances of Elizabeth Kahura!
Juneteenth Parade and Park Festival– Austin, Tx 10a-10p
10:00am- Annual Parade This event goes down Chicon St from MLK Blvd and features dancers, marching bands, floats and more!
12:00pm- Festival complete with music, food and local vendors at Rosewood and Boggy Creek Parks
* This is the oldest event in the area, so it’s highly attended! Parking can be crazy- but that’s the Austin norm for festivals. The parade is special- the marching bands in Texas are phenomenal, this is no exception. But for me, it’s the chance for my kids to see the “Miss Juneteenth” pageant court, the dance troupes of all ages and genders, the businesses and universities that join in the caravan, it’s all SO “Austin” and I love it! The food lines at the festival get long quickly so I recommend getting your food and then scouting a spot if you plan to hang back. Backpacks, Strollers and a re-usable Shopping bag for your purchases makes all the difference! My favorite part of this festival is that at 9pm the event is wrapped up with the true American holiday pizazz of a fireworks show!
Now if you absolutely can’t get plugged in this weekend or even if you do, I challenge you to take time to build upon this knowledge- Google, Wikipedia, Streaming or Network Specials. Keep it simple, find your “why” to celebrate. Take time to share what you learned with someone else, and maybe start with your family and then move into your circle of friends. Plan to link up with your tribe next year to embrace this holiday, because as you learned today, it is indeed yours to celebrate! Don’t take my word for it though, after 156 years of celebration, 41 years as a national holiday in many states, just this week on June 15th, 2021, the US Senate unanimously passed a bill finally making Juneteenth a federal holiday!
As true as it is for overripe bananas, that sat waiting to be seen and chosen.
The bunch untouched after purchase
and with so many missed opportunities to fulfill its purpose, to nourish.
Passing their prime though all signs indicated the passing time,
and then finally one day- we realize, and we feel guilt at first but then we rise-
to embrace it instead, cause we know these make the BEST banana bread!!
Here’s to normalizing the celebration of American history even if it was once neglected and leaning in to engage in our community’s cultural events, even when we don’t reflect it.