Celebrating Juneteenth

In Blog, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion by She+ Geeks Out

June 19, 2021 marks 156 years since slavery was abolished, and the past year has seen a greater societal awareness of how system racism is very much still embedded in the fabric of America. Whether it’s police violence against Black people, increased violence against Asian Americans, suppressing voting rights which disproportionately affects BIPOC communities, disproportionate denials of mortgages to Black people (arguably one of the best ways to grow wealth in the US), or people of color being treated worse in the healthcare system (and we could go on), there is still very much work to be done. 

More and more companies have started to offer June 19th (otherwise known as ‘Juneteenth’) as a day off in the past few years. However, that doesn’t mean that there is widespread awareness of the significance of this date. School Library Journal’s research on Juneteenth shows that most educators don’t include this day in their curriculum. We don’t see that changing anytime soon in many places, with critical race theory being banned in schools. As a character on ABC’s show Blackish says, “People are never going to celebrate something they barely want to admit happened.” 

We’ve compiled a few ways you can join us in marking this day:

Start Learning

Learn about critical race theory: Critical race theory is being used as a tool by conservative media to try to remove the topic of racism from primary and secondary education.  This is a framework for legal and societal analysis used to interrogate how systems of racial oppression have continued to uphold racism in the US. While it’d be nice to think that these topics were covered in K-12 public education, they aren’t. What is taught in schools is the history of racism in this country. It’s not about ideology, but about historical facts. Learn more.

Reparations: It’s a big topic with a lot of information, and even more misinformation out there. Take some time to learn more about what different visions of reparations look like and share that information. CodeSwitch had an episode on this topic, the Ta-Nehisi Coates article in The Atlantic is always a great place to start, and this Reparations Toolkit provides concrete ways to move toward reparations.

Watch Juneteenth represented in popular media: The fourth season premiere of Blackish was one of the first times Juneteenth was featured in a primetime sitcom. And not only did Kenya Barris use the opportunity to educate, he brought it to the masses in a musical that’s worth more than one watch. Juneteenth also serves as the backdrop in the episode “Still… because of slavery” on his new Netflix show, #BlackAF. You can also watch the Juneteenth episode of Atlanta, or the PBS series, Juneteenth Jamboree

Do the Work

Be counted: Make sure you’re registered to vote. Request your absentee ballot. Research candidates and campaigns that impact Black people in your communities and across the country and look into how you can support these campaigns. Making your voice heard is one of the most important things you can do right now, and for some is a radical act.

Write a letter: While Juneteenth is technically recognized in 47 states, in many areas it’s not celebrated in a meaningful way. Write a letter to local officials asking for more local investment and recognition in the future. Ask your representatives to pledge their efforts behind more programming for years to come. Write to the White House or your local representatives, and ask them to get behind making this an official holiday. 

Spend Thoughtfully

Donate your money: There are many organizations putting resources toward serving Black communities and fighting systemic racism. Here’s a short list below, or you can research other organizations doing work that is meaningful to you. Don’t have the budget? Time is money too. Look for volunteer opportunities:

Eat at Black restaurants: If you’re thinking about getting takeout this weekend (or honestly, any day, it doesn’t have to just be now!), look to support a Black owned restaurant near you. Check out the website Eat Black Owned for a directory of Black owned restaurants, or download the app eatOkra and search over 2,500 Black owned restaurants nationwide. 

Shop Black owned businesses: Get a jump start on your back-to-school or holiday shopping, and support Black business owners. There are so many great databases of incredible businesses, check out Official Black Wall Street for one. We’ve also listed a few of the She+ Geeks Out team’s favorite shops below. Or check out one of the Black womxn artists featured in our roundup, and order some prints for someone you love (maybe that someone is yourself!) 

If you are newer to knowing or learning about Juneteenth, it might feel uncomfortable at first to acknowledge the horrible history of this day, but it’s important to do so that we don’t let history repeat itself or continue to perpetuate racial inequity. Use Juneteenth to lean into the work of moving toward racial justice and share what you’ve learned with others. Bring it back to your communities, workplaces, and families, and don’t let the truth about Juneteenth be forgotten again. What are you doing to celebrate this important day? Reach out to us on Twitter or Instagram, we’d love to hear from you!