American post-racial idealism often lends itself to cultural erasure among a myriad of other disturbing realities. In our quest for global equality, contemporary models of consumerism can cause us to make room for new trends and popular methods by which we celebrate our “Blackness.” As a child growing up in New Jersey in the 1980s, African-American History in public sectors was confined to Black History Month.
During February, book reports on George Washington Carver’s amazing peanut and unlicensed cartoon cutouts of Martin Luther King, Jr. adorned my elementary school halls. Awkward recitations and reenactments of Harriet Tubman’s speeches and Nat Turner’s revolt sufficed as proper homage by Youth Ministries in church on the third Sunday in February. The following Sundays were reserved for “wear your Kente Cloth to worship” at the 10 o’clock service.
There is absolutely no wrong way to celebrate our history as African Americans, but we must be vigilant in discussing and celebrating our history outside of the confines of February. Where backyard barbeques used to be the maximum holiday enjoyment for previous fiscally restricted generations, Millennials are now catching flights to relax on beaches and booking the flyest Airbnb accommodations in Cabo. Despite the trends and advancements, there is still a particular celebration so specific to the Black experience in America that, in some ways, it is a sort of a cult classic in the Black American canon of unbelievable resil-
The following Sundays were reserved for
“wear your Kente Cloth to worship” at the
10 o’clock service.
ience and celebratory traditions – Juneteenth. On June 19, 1865, nearly two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln’s famed Emancipation Proclamation, news of the end of chattel slavery reached Galveston, Texas by way of Union General Gordon Granger. The justification for
the delayed liberation of Texas slaves is unclear and attributed to several claims of deliberate withholding by slave masters who sought to reap the benefits of a final crop yield, assassination of messengers, and a rogue Texan establishment unchecked by the then weakened Union army. Whatever the cause, news of liberation was shared to mixed reviews.
Some slaves immediately evacuated plantations and sought independence, while others stayed on to attempt to eek out suitable lives collecting wages as employees of their former masters. No matter the response, June 19th became a day of marked pride and supplication where free black men and women celebrated their new state of independence in Galveston with speeches, prayers, parades, rodeos, fishing, baseball and barbecue. As the migration of blacks from the southernmost reaches of Texas radiated to northern destinations, the tradition of the Juneteenth celebration traveled with them.
The year 2015 marked the 150th year celebration of Juneteenth and with it brought an array of music festivals, lectures, community health events, picnics, and weekend long celebrations across America. International Juneteenth events have been held throughout the continent of Africa, Korea, Europe, South America and Japan. Currently, 45 states recognize Juneteenth as an official observance and legislation is in place seeking to establish the 19th of June as Juneteenth Independence Day in America. In the meantime, some of the largest Juneteenth celebrations in the country might be happening right outside your front door!
JUNETEENTH CELEBRATIONS ACROSS
THE UNITED STATES
Galveston, TX is the birthplace of Juneteenth. The African American Museum Juneteenth
Family & Friends Festival boasts blues, gospel, Zydeco and R&B performances alongside delectable seafood and barbecue vendors.
Houston, TX says that they have the world’s oldest celebration at what they call, ‘Juneteenth
Emancipation Celebration,’ held at Emancipation Park inside Houston’s Third Ward. Check
the website for details as the recent park remodel was delayed due to early spring floods in the surrounding areas.
3. SAN JOSE
San Jose, CA is serving a diverse celebration with musical headliners such as Pete Escovedo
and Tweet Charlene splitting the Father’s Day Weekend bill while engaging Silicone Valley residents in activities involving technology, health, family and heritage.
Portland, OR surprises us with a rich history of Juneteenth traditions. The Clara Peoples Freedom Trail Parade is named for Muskogee, OK native of the same name who is credited with
initiating Portland’s first annual Juneteenth celebration in 1972.
Denver, CO also has one of the most premier Juneteenth celebrations in the country every
year in the historic Five Points District of Downtown Denver. A music festival, the Denver Juneteenth celebration crowns an African American Ms. Juneteenth every year for her outstanding achievements and community involvement. Denver celebrates with a parade and subsequent block party with live music performances throughout the weekend.
Minneapolis, MN boasts one of the countries largest Juneteenth celebrations! This year,
with the recent and tragic passing of the Twin Cities’ own, Prince, the musical tributes promise to be astounding and this is sure to be a celebration that you don’t want to miss!
Philadelphia, PA is getting on board with or ganizing efforts from Philadelphia Community of Leaders who are hosting the inaugural Juneteenth event in the City of Brotherly Love.
This event promises to showcase marching bands, drill teams, guest speakers, live musicians, food vendors and more!
There are also Juneteenth celebrations as far reaching as Atlanta, Albuquerque, Boston and
Jacksonville. Do not miss out on your opportunity to enjoy some rich African American culture and delectable barbecue this month!
A 2006 National Poetry Slam Champion, and recipient of Westword’s Mastermind Award in Literary Arts for her work as hostess of Café Nuba; Ebony Isis Booth is committed to her work. She continues to fuel her drive toward art-ivism as Programs & Communications Coordinator for Harwood Art Center while simultaneously writing and performing original poetry, heralding social justice, self love,and perseverance in and around New Mexico.