June 19, 2020, marks 155 years since enslaved people in Texas learned from the arrival of Union soldiers that slavery was abolished two years earlier, but due to the current protests of police violence against Black people and systematic racism, this feels like the first year that the holiday has caught national attention in white media (FINALLY). Companies throughout the country have now declared that their offices will be closed in acknowledgment of the day, and others have provided learning opportunities for their employees.
But many people don’t even know what this date means. School Library Journal’s research shows that most educators don’t include this day in their curriculum. “People are never going to celebrate something they barely want to admit happened,” Ruby says on ABC’s Blackish. Our own SGO polling revealed that 94% of community members didn’t learn about this day in school, and 75% have never seen it represented in popular media.
We’ve declared this a holiday for our company, and not just this year- it will be a paid holiday going forward (along with Election Day). It is critical that we support Black members of our community and our team. This means recognizing that the 4th of July only celebrates freedom for some groups and not for all. We recognize that until we have liberation for all, none of us are free. We acknowledge that our society must continue to work for freedom and justice for all members of our society.
Just because it hasn’t been a federal holiday to date doesn’t mean we can’t use our power as employers to support this, and to take this action to highlight racial injustice. As a team, we’re taking the time to use this day as a day of observance and reflect on the work we still have to do. Whether or not you have Juneteenth off, we’ve compiled a few ways you can join us in marking this day:
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 recently had an episode on this topic, and the Ta-Nehisi Coates article in The Atlantic is always a great place to start.
Watch Juneteenth 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.
It might feel uncomfortable at first to acknowledge the shameful history of this day. Use this day to lean into the work of moving toward racial justice. Share what you’ve learned with others. Bring it back to your communities, work places, and families, and don’t let the truth about Juneteenth be forgotten again after this moment in time passes.
Do the Work
Sign the petition: As of June 18, 2020, there are just over 300k signatures on the change.org petition asking Congress to make Juneteenth a national holiday. Sign and share, and let’s see if we can make that a million.
Be counted: Please. 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. You can call voters right from your home, and you don’t even have to put your mask on. If you haven’t already done so, fill out the census questionnaire. 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 presidential candidate and ask them to get behind making this an official holiday.
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: Many seem to be forgetting, but we’re still in a pandemic, and restaurants can use your help. 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. 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 women and other marginalized genders artists featured in our roundup, and order some prints for someone you love (maybe that someone is yourself!)