By: Prisca L. Wilks
GIrl Scouts of West Central Florida is committed to the work of building an anti-racist society. One of the immediate goals our newly-formed, staff-led Anti-Racism Action Team identified was bringing awareness and recognition to Juneteenth.
On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. This declaration claimed freedom for all Confederate-held slaves starting from January 1, 1863. It wasn’t until two years afterwards, that about 1,800 federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state. These troops were to ensure that all 250,000 enslaved people in Texas were notified they had already been freed. The date this event occurred was June 19th, 1865-otherwise known as “Juneteenth”, which is the oldest known U.S. celebration of the end of slavery.
Also referred to as Freedom Day, or Emancipation Day, this historic event has only been celebrated regionally. In 1980, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth a state holiday. As of 2020, there are 47 states (including Florida) and Washington, D.C. that recognize the day as a state holiday.
- Juneteenth by Ralph Ellison
- Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom by Charles A. Taylor
- All Different Now by Angela Johnson
- Freedom's Gifts by Valerie Wesley
If you're looking for some powerful ways to recognize and celebrate Juneteenth this year, we have some suggestions:
Virtual Juneteenth opportunities
Due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions, a number of Juneteenth festivals and events are going virtual allowing you to join celebrations across the nation like the Juneteenth Music Festival and others in places like Texas, Iowa and Connecticut. Or if you want to expand your knowledge of history, Yale has an open online course on African American History: From Emancipation to the Present.
Visit your local African American History Museum
African American History Museums provide an opportunity for those who are interested in African American culture to explore and revel in this history through interactive exhibitions. They help all Americans see how their stories, their histories, and their cultures are shaped and informed by global influences. And they explore what it means to be an American and share how American values like resiliency, optimism, and spirituality are reflected in African American history and culture.
The Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum in St. Petersburg is hosting a Juneteenth event with social distancing guidelines in place. We also recommend a visit to the Curtis Museum in Clearwater when it's safe to do so.
Support Black Owned Businesses
The Tampa Bay Times put together this list of Tampa Bay black-owned restaurants and other food businesses, and Green Book of Tampa Bay offers a database other kinds of black-owned businesses in the area. Supporting small business is impactful at any time, but particularly as restaurants, shops, and other businesses begin to reopen and recover from COVID-19 closures.
Attend an Oral History or Reading at Your Local Public Library
As if libraries weren't amazing enough, many of them offer live or recorded readings or stories that can help you explore African American History and Culture. Check out your local library's website to find out what resources are available. Remember, you can always ask the librarian for help finding what you're looking for!
Have a cookout or BBQ with foods associated with Southern or Texan cuisine
We can smell the charcoal already! Work with your family to create a meal that features some southern favorites like baked beans, collard greens, mac and cheese, or brisket! Wash it all down with red soda water or strawberry soda, a traditional beverage at Texan cookouts and BBQs. You could even earn a badge or two along the way, like Brownie Snacks, Junior Simple Meals, or Senior Locavore to name a few!
Other ways to celebrate with family:
- This blog has some fun ways to celebrate or learn more
- Looking for a craft activity, here is a video tutorial on creating a Juneteenth wreath
- Create your own artwork to commemorate this important day; for inspiration, you can use the Juneteenth Flag designed by L. J. Graf (in collaboration with Ben Haith, Verlene Hines, Azim, and Eliot Design).
- Plant a flowering plant in rememberance
However you decide to celebrate or honor, we hope you will share with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so we can continue to bring awareness recognition to this historic day.
Juneteenth Flag designed by L.J. Graf
The colors red, white, and blue echo the American flag to symbolize that the enslaved people and their descendants were Americans. The star in the middle pays homage to Texas, while the bursting "new star" on the "horizon" of the red and blue fields represents a new freedom and a new people.