Juneteenth: Ideas for Celebrating Black Liberation, Culture, Connection, and Joy!

National Director of Youth Development Programs Danielle Morris is back to share a bunch of INCREDIBLE ideas for marking Juneteenth with all the youth in your program. I know I’m going to start listening to the Girltrek podcast IMMEDIATELY!

Hey friends! Gather around and let me tell you about Black Liberation and Joy! Juneteenth- also known as Freedom Day- serves as a time for African Americans to gather in community to celebrate liberation, culture, strong connections and joy! It’s a holiday that has roots in Texas. Enslaved African Americans received “the good news” by military order: They were finally liberated from slavery on June 19th, 1865. “June” plus “nineteenth” is Juneteenth.  This message of freedom arrived nearly two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation formally ending slavery in the United States.

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Friends, just imagine the mix of fear, confusion, and abundant joy those newly freed men, women, and children experienced when they learned that they were closer to determining their own futures. They were charting new paths unimaginable for previous generations of enslaved African Americans. Unbeknownst to them, their next steps towards freedom marked a turning point for future generations. So you see, Juneteenth isn’t just about celebrating a day or a single historical event. It is about celebrating the possibilities of good things to come, resilience, creativity and community! 

Over time, Juneteenth festivities have grown from regional events to calls across the nation for this special day to be enshrined as a federal holiday. In fact, did you know that Texas was the first state to officially observe Juneteenth in the 1980s? Now, forty-seven states; the District of Columbia; and companies such as Twitter, Nike, and our very own Boys & Girls Clubs of America National Office mark it as a holiday of remembrance.

Now that you know a little bit more about Juneteenth and why there’s so much to celebrate, I bet you want to get in on the fun! Here are a few ideas for how you and your youth can get involved.

Celebrate Black Liberation by:

Helping your teen members register to vote. Voting is a right that was not always accessible to African Americans, women and other ethnic groups. Encouraging your teen members to get registered to vote and cast their ballot in all elections ensures that their voice is counted and that representatives at the local, state and national levels reflect their priorities in policies and laws that govern our communities and nation. Note that in some states, youth can pre-register before their 18th birthday.

Supporting Black-Owned Businesses. By purchasing services and goods from Black-Owned Businesses, you are investing in job creation, Black creativity and innovation, and the ability of individuals and families to build wealth.  A thriving community has thriving businesses.

Helping Club youth learn how to start their own business. BGCA’s Lesa Sexton, Director, Youth Development Programs, provides helpful tips and Club examples of how to nurture budding entrepreneurs. 

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Celebrate Black Culture and Connections by:

Offering fun activities for your youngest Club members that celebrate Black Culture. The National Museum of African American History and Culture hosts “Joyful Fridays”, a Zoom class led by museum educators. Based on the book series, Joyful ABC Activity Book, activities feature art projects and other lessons that aim to teach, inspire and create. Live instruction requires pre-registration. You can also find pre-recorded lessons and resources here

Getting your tween and teen Club members up and moving to the “Black History Bootcamp: The walking podcast” series by Girltrek. Girltrek is an organization devoted to getting African American women and girls to walk as a practical step to inspiring healthy lifestyles. You don’t have to be Black to enjoy the lessons and positive affirmations. The Black History Bootcamp offers multiple 21-episode seasons that celebrate Black stories, voices and history, including focuses on Foremothers, Resistance, Prayer, and Cosmonauts. Listen, learn, connect, and get active! Find it by searching for Girltrek’s Black History Bootcamp in your preferred podcast player.

Create opportunities for youth to connect with one another and the important people in their lives by recording a conversation with StoryCorps. The passing down of stories and history is a central way Black people have connected over generations. StoryCorps has a platform that allows individuals to ask questions, listen and share stories that are then archived at the Library of Congress. How cool is that?! StoryCorps has tips to get started and offers different ways to record conversations. Learn more about how you can nurture connections here

Celebrate Black Joy by:

Hosting a book club that centers Black happiness, joy, family, friendships and connection. The images often shown on tv, in the movies and in other forms of media highlight the trauma and pain Black people experience. Celebrating Black joy challenges those stories by showing Black people living happy, fulfilling, playful lives. Check out this list of 30 books for young readers that are affirming of Black joy!

Hosting a TikTok Challenge or record youth explaining what Black Joy means to them. It is important for people of all races and ethnicities to challenge the negative messages they might receive about Black people. Positive affirmations and reflections of what Black joy looks like, feels like, and sounds like challenges those external messages that often become internal narratives. Host a TikTok Challenge or ask youth to record themselves and share their positive reflections. Here’s an example of young people describing what Black joy means to them

And lastly, celebrating Black Liberation, Black Culture and Connection, and Black Joy don’t need a special day. Check out these other ClubX Blog posts to keep the party going all year long:

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How do you celebrate Juneteenth at your Club? Do you have any great ideas for celebrating diversity and inclusion to share? Let us know! Comment below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email ClubXBlog@bgca.org.

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