On our nation’s first official Juneteenth federal holiday, I have mixed feelings. The holiday is not a bad thing – I do think it can have a good impact for future conversations. But it was enacted at the same time state after state are proposing and passing bans on teaching about our nation’s heavily racist past, and racial equity efforts for now. These are two efforts that speak to how important government officials believe education about racial history – or really just true history – and speaks and awful lot to how powerful they believe that education is.
I will certainly be speaking up to my legislators on what I think about banning real history that talks about race. In the meantime, we all have a responsibility to educate ourselves and others about race, truth and the fullness of history.
On Juneteenth this can be a reason to focus our personal education and sharing. The holiday itself isn’t recognizing an actual law passage about slavery, but the anniversary of the delivery of knowledge.
If there’s a Juneteenth celebration in your community, that’s a great place to start. But here’s some more resources to start learning about Juneteenth itself, and what we can do to stop perpetuating the effects of our nation’s slave trade.
A brilliant, tough watch about the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery except as punishment for crimes. The legacy of that provision has a direct link to the injustice of today.
2. Miss Juneteenth
A modern day celebration of Juneteenth and the journey of a Black mom.
In reality, so many books written by Black authors should be on this list, as the recovery from slavery is really about the ongoing fight for justice for Black people. Books from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ibrahim Kendi, Ijeoma Oluo – there’s dozens, if not hundreds, of Black-authored books that can help us understand what needs to be done.
But here are a few specifically about the recognition of Juneteenth:
1. On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed
2. Island of Color: Where Juneteenth Started by Izola Ethel Fedford Collins
3. Juneteenth for Mazie (picture book) by Floyd Cooper
4. Juneteenth Book for Kids (activity book)
5. All Different Now (picture book) by Angela Johnson
And to make this an added benefit for the Black community, purchase your books from a Black-owned bookstore!
And while we’re at it, here’s a few more ideas on recognizing this new (official) holiday:
1. Educate yourself and others – including kids! – on the full history of slavery. From its inception to how it affects us all today, it’s a part of our country’s foundations, and we have to understand it to enact long overdue justice.
2. Make a point to recognize and celebrate Black JOY as well – maybe that’s watching a Black-directed rom-com, listen to Black musicians, reading a sci-fi book by a Black author, looking for Black-created art you connect with, or watching a doc about any number of amazing Black accomplishments with the family.
3. Make a commitment to speak up when you hear people talking about banning real history, belittling the need to recognize days like Juneteenth, and the lie that we don’t have widespread institutional racism in our nation. Take the work of standing up to these things for yourself, and lessen the burden on Black people.
4. Purchase from a Black business or individual. Start local, then expand out. There are hundreds of online Black-owned retail businesses, so the next time you go to purchase something online, see if you can find a Black business that sells it.
5. Make a donation – or better yet set up a recurring donation – to an organization that works toward Black justice and racial equity.
6. Share, rate and review! Share information, businesses, artists, with others. Review and rate Black media and products. Studies show Black business reviews suffer from racism, and Black business owners lose billions in revenue because of it. Get the word out!
7. Write your state legislator today and tell them as a voter, you oppose the ban of “critical race theory” ￼or anything restricting knowledge about race and racial history.
8. Write your U.S. representatives and let them know you expect them to pass the For the People Act.
Our responsibility to counter the effects of slavery won’t end until we live in a truly just society. But the more effort we put in now, the less of a burden we pass on to our kids. I do have a lot of hope our country can heal from the trauma and pain of our past, but it’s going to take recognizing that trauma is still being enacted in the present. And a little step today can help us all move toward the bigger steps we need tomorrow.