Foods on the Juneteenth altar include beets, strawberries, watermelon, yams and hibiscus tea, as well as a plate of black-eyed peas and cornbread.Credit...Jim Wilson/The New York Times
For generations we have celebrated 4th of July and Thanksgiving with food, community, reflection and.... a day off. Hopefully with enough dialogue, awareness & outreach around the subject, Juneteenth will make its way into becoming a national holiday. The importance of this momentous day finding it's way into our national and cultural lexicon goes deeper than 4th of July (freedom for some) and Thanksgiving (oppression of others).
On June 19, 1865, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s official Emancipation Proclamation, the enslaved African-Americans living in Galveston, Texas were informed that slavery had finally been abolished. The reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation. Newly freed enslaved people celebrated emancipation with “prayer, feasting, song, and dance” and the following year, the first official Juneteenth celebration was born, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
An African American band at an Emancipation Day celebration in Austin in 1900. Austin History Center
Now lets imagine a future where ALL American's would celebrate when truly ALL Americans became free. The positive and unifying effect this would have on future generations if we taught them to celebrate Black Joy - as pointed out in The Kojo Nnamdi radio show. (It's worth the 25 minute listen). According to Michael Twitty, culinary historian and author of The Cooking Gene, the importance of food during this holiday is the communalism and celebration of each other.
Usually in the week or weeks leading up to a holiday, elementary schools are teaching the kids about the importance of the holiday, the history and why we celebrate it. Usually there are decorations that are made and traditional holiday foods to go with it, creating a festive excitement around the whole ordeal that imprints on us early into our development. I'm hoping that within our lifetime, we could see a national celebration of Juneteenth arise with it's own traditions, celebrations and most importantly education baked in.
93 yr old Opal Lee from Fort Worth, TX has been advocating for Juneteenth to become a national holiday for years. In 2020 more and more enthusiasm has grown to get this holiday on the books. If you would like to take 30 seconds, feel free to sign the petition here
So lets say you're reading this and thinking "but I'm not BIPOC (Black, Indigenous & People of Color) so why or how would I celebrate?"
Why: Celebrating the first real step taken in this nation toward equitable human rights for all its citizens can hopefully bring awareness to future generations on where & how we can still take those steps that need to be taken today. Celebrating not just the event itself but the move towards equality and the jubilation that can bring for everyone.
How: Let's make Juneteenth a day away from our jobs to do work that supports creating a more just and equal society. Volunteer with organizations in your community, or find ways to support organizations and causes devoted to anti-racism. Juneteenth can be a day of reflection as well as action.
So where does the food fit in? I thought this would be an article about food
Food is the thing that lifts us all up and brings us together at a communal table. Juneteenth is the time where we can collectively celebrate Black Culinary History within this nation. Since what to cook can sometimes be an overwhelming decision, I would like to point you to Monique of the Divas Can Cook Blog.
"Yesterday my son asked me, “Mommy, what is Juneteenth?”. We’ve discussed this in our past homeschooling lessons but clearly not enough to leave an impression on him. We’ve never included crafts, food, decorations, and a celebration, as it should be.
That has changed!
My family has adopted many new holidays over the years, and this year, Juneteenth will be added to the lineup..."
Her admitted newness to the journey of celebrating Juneteenth is relatable to so many of us. As the movement to celebrate grows wider, she has crafted a wonderful list of recipes that I am including in this article for you to click through to below
Most likely I will spend my Juneteenth cooking her recipe for turnip greens while I snack on margarita soaked watermelon slices (another of Moniques recipes). All this will be done while learning How to Build Effective Allyship Skills as laid out in this Paradigm article.
For Juneteenth I wish you all a wonderful day of awareness, reflection, education, activism and of course - good food.