Juneteenth holiday celebrated in many places and in many ways

Juneteenth holiday celebrated in many places and in many ways
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AUGUSTA, Ga. – For more than a century and a half, the Juneteenth holiday has been sacred to many Black communities.

The holiday is Wednesday, but celebrations began over the weekend across the CSRA.

Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, found out they had been freed — after the end of the Civil War, and two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Since it was designated a federal holiday in 2021, Juneteenth has become more universally recognized beyond Black America. Many people get the day off work or school, and there are a plethora of street festivals, fairs, concerts and other events.

COMING UP:

  • On Wednesday, Augusta is holding its eighth annual Juneteenth Festival. Band of Brothers Augusta is hosting the event from 12:30-9:30 p.m. in the James Brown Arena Seventh Street parking lot.
  • And in Aiken County, Umoja Village will celebrate from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Eudora Farms Wildlife Safari Park in Salley. Activities for the entire family are planned by Umoja Village to also include remarks by Salley Mayor LaDonna Hall, African-style drummers and dancers, educational and history presentations, line dancing and more.

People who never gave the holiday on June 19 more than a passing thought may be asking themselves, is there a “right” way to celebrate Juneteenth?

For beginners and those brushing up history, here are some answers:

Is Juneteenth a solemn day of remembrance or more of a party?

It just depends on what you want. Juneteenth festivities are rooted in cookouts and barbecues. In the beginnings of the holiday celebrated as Black Americans’ true Independence Day, the outdoors allowed for large, reunions among formerly enslaved family, many of whom had been separated. The gatherings were especially revolutionary because they were free of restrictive measures, known as “Black Codes,” enforced in Confederate states, controlling whether liberated slaves could vote, buy property, gather for worship and other aspects of daily life.

Alan Freeman, 60, grew up celebrating Juneteenth every year in Houston, 50 miles north of Galveston. He has vivid memories of smoke permeating his entire neighborhood because so many people were using their barbecue pits for celebratory cookouts. You could go to anyone’s house and be welcomed to join in the feast, which could include grilled chicken and beef and other regional cuisines — jerk meats, fried fish, Jamaican plantains.

“It’s where I began to really see Black unity because I realized that that was the one day that African Americans considered ours,” Freeman said. “The one holiday that was ours. We didn’t have to share with anybody. And it was about freedom because what we understood is that we were emancipated from slavery. But, there was so many beautiful activities.”

Others may choose to treat Juneteenth as a day of rest and remembrance. That can mean doing community service, attending an education panel or taking time off.

The important thing is to make people feel they have options on how to observe the occasion, said Dr. David Anderson, a Black pastor and CEO of Gracism Global, a consulting firm helping leaders navigate conversations bridging divides across race and culture.

“Just like the Martin Luther King holiday, we say it’s a day of service and a lot of people will do things. There are a lot of other people who are just ‘I appreciate Dr. King, I’ll watch what’s on the television, and I’m gonna rest,’” Anderson said. “I don’t want to make people feel guilty about that. What I want to do is give everyday people a choice.”

What if you’ve never celebrated Juneteenth?

Anderson, 57, of Columbia, Maryland, never did anything on Juneteenth in his youth. He didn’t learn about it until his 30s.

“I think many folks haven’t known about it — who are even my color as an African American male. Even if you heard about it and knew about it, you didn’t celebrate it,” Anderson said. “It was like just a part of history. It wasn’t a celebration of history.”

For many African Americans, the farther away from Texas that they grew up increased the likelihood they didn’t have big Juneteenth celebrations regularly. In the South, the day can vary based on when word of Emancipation reached each state.

Anderson has no special event planned other than giving his employees Friday and Monday off. If anything, Anderson is thinking about the fact it’s Father’s Day this weekend.

“If I can unite Father’s Day and Juneteenth to be with my family and honor them, that would be wonderful,” he said.

What are other names used to refer to Juneteenth?

Over the decades, Juneteenth has also been called Freedom Day, Emancipation Day, Black Fourth of July and second Independence Day among others.

“Because 1776, Fourth of July, where we’re celebrating freedom and liberty and all of that, that did not include my descendants,” Brown said. “Black people in America were still enslaved. So that that holiday always comes with a bittersweet tinge to it.”

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