Juneteenth Is Now a Federal Holiday — Here Are 3 Ways to Celebrate This Year

published Jun 17, 2021
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On June 17, President Joe Biden signed a bill declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday. The bill comes after a wave of increased awareness around issues of police violence in the Black community following the killing of George Floyd in 2020. 

Juneteenth (also called Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, etc.) celebrates the day in 1865 when soldiers notified the last group of enslaved people in Texas of their freedom, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed in 1863. According to History.com, Juneteenth is considered the longest-running African-American holiday. 

Mark Anthony Neal, an African-American studies scholar at Duke University, told The New York Times, “I think Juneteenth feels a little different now. It’s an opportunity for folks to kind of catch their breath about what has been this incredible pace of change and shifting that we’ve seen [since Derek Chauvin was convicted for George Floyd’s murder.]”

Many people have grown up attending Juneteenth celebrations their whole lives. Kenneth Timmons, a worker at a federal government agency in Houston, has been taking Juneteenth off of work for years. 

“Even though the United States celebrates July 4 as their independence, we were still considered slaves,” said Timmons to the New York Times. “So for us, that is the day that our ancestors were finally released from servitude and slavery and could escape the South.”

Timmons referred to Juneteenth as “(his) Independence Day.”

Juneteenth can be celebrated with parties, music, parades, barbecues, and more. While the pandemic has caused many events to go virtual, here are some ways that you can have Juneteenth be a part of your life. 

Attend an event.

Many large cities host festivals or parades for Juneteenth. While the pandemic has caused some of these events to shift their plans, there are still a variety of events to tune into virtually or in person. In New York, the Juneteenth NY organization hosts a three-day summit. One day is online, and the other two in person. In Washington, D.C. the Smithsonian Museum of African American Culture and History is hosting online speakers for everyone to enjoy. You can watch the Colorado music festival virtually online as well. For a more local event, consider checking out your local parks or museums to see what they might offer. 

Buy from a Black-owned business.

 Supporting a Black owned-business is one of the easiest ways to support a community. Here are just a few lists of businesses that sell candles, books, handmade goods, and more. Or, consider using dinner to show support by eating at a Black-owned restaurant in your area. TODAY has a list to help you get started on your search for Black-owned restaurants near you. 

Support Black art.

Another  convenient and meaningful way to support the Black community is to spend some time learning about the experiences of Black people today. Consider watching this list of curated documentaries on the Black experience from PBS, or this list of 28 essential films on the Black America from The New York Times chief film critics. You can check out home renovation shows that showcase Black designers, 11 films to stream about Black identity, and a list of shows and movies that highlight Black joy from Nerdist.