The origins of Juneteenth:
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers led by Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to bring news of freedom to the enslaved Black people living there. Although it was two months after the Confederacy had surrendered in Virginia, and a full two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed enslaved people in Southern states, emancipation could not be enforced until after the end of the Civil War.
Granger delivered General Order No. 3, which said: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”
The next year, the now-free people started celebrating Juneteenth in Galveston. Its observance has continued around the nation and the world since, growing over the decades to include concerts, parades, and readings of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Why make it a federal holiday in 2021?
Last June, President Biden signed into law a bill to make Juneteenth, or June 19, the 12th official federal holiday in the United States after the Senate unanimously passed the bill the day before.
That means that this year, Juneteenth will be celebrated more widely than ever before, including in smaller mountain towns like the ones many in the SheFly community are a part of. But as the day gains recognition and popularity outside of the historically Black communities that have traditionally marked it, there is also an increased opportunity and need for education as well as celebration.
The national reckoning over race helped set the stage for Juneteenth to become the first new federal holiday since 1983, when Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created.
The bill was sponsored by Senator Edward Markey, D-Mass., and had 60 co-sponsors. Bipartisan support emerged as lawmakers struggle to overcome divisions that are still simmering following the 2020 police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.
Supporters of the holiday have worked to make sure Juneteenth celebrators don’t forget why the day exists.
“In 1776 the country was freed from the British, but the people were not all free,” Dee Evans, national director of communications of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, said in 2019. “June 19, 1865, was actually when the people and the entire country was actually free.”
What can you do to recognize and celebrate Juneteenth?
In the recent celebrations of Juneteenth, the true meaning and opportunity for education around the day can often get diluted. It’s important to recognize the day, including in predominantly white, small mountain towns like Gunnison/Crested Butte (SheFly’s headquarters) without placing the burden and responsibility of organization on the people of color who may already feel undue pressures to represent and educate around this holiday and in these spaces.
Keep the focus on education and antiracism.
Juneteenth is an educational opportunity to learn about anti-racist initiatives, amplify Black voices and organizations, and acknowledge the tireless activism and sacrifices BIPOC have made to make this day one of celebration and empowerment. Here are some ways to participate in Juneteenth:
Juneteenth is a great opportunity to learn about the history of this day and the legacy of slavery through literature, movies, and cultural sites. Use this day to commit to learning the histories of Black and Brown revolutionary activism. Here are some good places to start (https://www.glsen.org/Juneteenth2022):
Support Black Organizations
There are so many powerful Black-led organizations on national and community levels to support. For non-Black allies, Juneteenth is a great way to show solidarity by giving resources to Black community members and organizations. Juneteenth is also the perfect time to set up a recurring donation. Here is a list of organizations as a starting point, but we encourage you to look into your communities for more local orgs to donate to:
Patricia Baker, Founder of Blackpackers, on a glacier.
Volunteer and Attend Juneteenth Events
Many inspiring events happen on Juneteenth, like protests, live music, speakers, and festivals that rely on the support of volunteers. Volunteering and offering resources is a great way for non-Black allies to get involved and help amplify Black voices. Here are some national, virtual, and Colorado-specific events, but we recommend looking into your communities for Juneteenth events:
The Juneteenth schedule for Crested Butte, organized by Melanin Mountain Project, which Team SheFly will be attending!
Amplify Black Creators and Products
How diversified is your Instagram feed? Take this day to research the Black-owned businesses in your hometown and scope out some new favorite Black influencers to follow. Find a favorite new brand to buy for future holidays and birthdays. Engage with an influencer creating powerful content. Share your new favorite artists with your friends. Juneteenth is a great way to get started (or continue) diversifying your feed, but creators rely on page promotion via link sharing, post saving, liking, and subscribing so continue to do so daily! While there are endless inspiring artists, successful business owners, and remarkable creators out there, here are some of our faves to check out and support:
Shanice Snyder (left) and Chelsea Murphy (right) are both digital creators creating important educational and exciting content on social.
While Juneteenth is a great place to start dismantling white supremacy, this is work that takes effort throughout the year. We encourage everyone to find Black-led organizations, creators, and leaders in your community that you can continually support and offer resources. If you have suggestions for additional resources or people we can follow and amplify, please share them in the comments below!