One of the results of the recent protests over racial injustice is a growing awareness of Juneteenth. In case you aren’t familiar with Juneteenth, it marks the anniversary of June 19, 1865, when the last group of enslaved Texans learned that they were free – two months after the end of the Civil War and a whole TWO AND A HALF YEARS after the Emancipation Proclamation. While Juneteenth, sometimes called Emancipation Day, has been observed in some states and local communities for years, there has been a push for many years for it to become a national federal holiday. Even without that official recognition, many in the African American community across the country celebrate Juneteenth with parades, cookouts, reunions, and rejoicing in Black culture.
In 2020, Juneteenth is finally gaining the attention it deserves. Many companies, including Nike, Target, Twitter, and more, are making it a paid holiday for employees. And among those? The Boys & Girls Clubs of America National Office in Atlanta. Because of the advocacy of Black staff, your National Office will spend the day in celebration and reflection on an annual basis.
We should have written a post on how to celebrate Juneteenth with your members earlier than this. My (Sarah here) commitment to you is that next year, we will have ideas and activities for you well in advance of the day, so that you can include them in your program plans and be able to gather any supplies you may need. But at Boys & Girls Clubs we have lots of experience with last-minute adjustments to the plan, so I didn’t want to let the day pass without providing a few ideas that require little to no planning. Some of these are from online and some of them are from your colleagues across the Movement.
Watch a video about Juneteenth and have a discussion.
There are lots of kid-friendly videos online that quickly explain Juneteenth. At Boys & Girls Clubs of Tarrant County, youth will watch this video from PBS Learning and have an open discussion.
This channel has a couple of videos about Juneteenth, as well as biographies of many famous Black Americans.
This one is more age-appropriate for your tweens and teens.
Complete a Juneteenth art project, such as sidewalk art or a poster contest.
Also in Tarrant County, members will head outside (socially distanced of course) to express their feelings and what freedom means to them through sidewalk art. Chalk would be perfect, but if you don’t have any on hand, take your art supplies outside anyway and enjoy the sun. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Lawrence has a great Pinterest board with ideas for Juneteenth. One is that their 1st-3rd graders make posters expressing their definition of freedom. They also learn about the day from a teacher, hear a history presentation, and have an essay contest. While you may not have time to organize a presentation this year, you can always do a simple art project after watching one of the videos above.
Explore virtual exhibits at museums across the country.
Many museums have developed virtual exhibits since they aren’t open to the public right now. Here are just a few, and consider checking your local history centers or community organizations to see if they have anything planned.
Amistad Center – Learn about rich African American traditions and culture through art, storytelling, music, and dance!
National Museum of African American History & Culture – Watch the video as the Museum’s Founding Director Lonnie Bunch III leads a tour through our Slavery and Freedom exhibition, highlighting stories behind some of our most popular objects, including Nat Turner’s bible, freedom papers of free African Americans and a Sibley tent that housed African Americans who ran from Southern plantations in search of freedom with the Union army.
Atlanta History Center – Curated list of many resources, including music, art, history exhibits, and even an animated comic.
Incorporate JOY and FUN in whatever you decide to do.
One of the best parts about Juneteenth is how it is truly a CELEBRATION of the perseverance and spirit of Black people in America. So while it is vital to learn about the wrongdoing of the past and the continued injustice that occurs today, Juneteenth should be infused with joy as well. We all know youth love special treats- at Boys & Girls Clubs of Ulster County, where in-person programming is still closed, the Club will be doing a popsicle pop-up party for members, where they can stop by, get a popsicle from the side window, and creating a photo and information area for families to socially-distanced browse. Popsicles, pizza, hot dogs, or red fruits like strawberries and watermelon (red foods are a symbol of the resilience and ingenuity of enslaved people) are all easy and yummy treats. Also consider listening to music by Black artists while you party – Spotify and Apple Music have playlists for Black Music Month, though as with all pop music, you will want to filter explicit content in settings.
Personally? Since I am still socially distancing at home, I’ll be spending the day learning and reflecting, and I invite you to join me if you are in a similar situation. I’m going to watch 13th on Netflix then participate in a discussion with colleagues next week, attend an online celebration here in Atlanta, order from a Black-owned restaurant, and start the novel The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. And I’m excited to hear from YOU how you observe Juneteenth with your members so that we can build an EPIC post for next year!