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Let freedom ring: The importance of celebrating Juneteenth

Let freedom ring: The importance of celebrating Juneteenth

Let freedom ring: The importance of celebrating Juneteenth
June 17
10:00 2022

For many Black families around the United States, Juneteenth is a way to celebrate heritage. In a way, it is a holiday that connects us back to our roots. Its importance lies in our DNA, but companies see it as just another way to profit off a marginalized group. That’s not what the celebration is about, and it’s important that companies do not profit off of our history and suffering.

Juneteenth has been celebrated on June 19 in remembrance of the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans since 1866. In 2021, President Joe Biden proclaimed Juneteenth a federal holiday, which of course thrust the day further into the spotlight. Shirts at Old Navy, full sections for celebration at Target, even a Walmart ice cream consisting of cheesecake and red velvet flavorings – Juneteenth is finally receiving widespread recognition.

The holiday’s federal acknowledgment should allow those who celebrate to fully enjoy it, but all it has done is give corporations another way to benefit from Black culture without truly understanding the severity and importance the celebration brings. It’s not exactly the same as blatant culture appropriation, but it has some of the same implications. Corporations are reaping the benefits of pandering and insincere activism.

Amplifying marginalized voices and increasing visibility should occur at all times, not only in specific moments. That is exactly what is happening with Juneteenth. This holiday was created to celebrate the day that Black Americans in Galveston, Texas, were told of the Emancipation Proclamation, thus freeing them from slavery.

The holiday is meant to be a celebration for Black Americans to embrace their culture. As for corporations who just use Juneteenth to make money, they do not care. Corporate activism sits on top of this important day and tries to benefit from years of oppression and suffering. Corporate activism encourages performative activism. Companies adopting Juneteenth symbolism, only to remove it and all other evidence of pro-Black activism are no different than those whose activism ends and begins with an Instagram post.

Besides the corporate activism, Juneteenth being a federal holiday means that it now sits on the same shoulders as Independence Day and Memorial Day — for some, it’s just another day off. For Black people, Juneteenth is much more than that. It is the day of our ancestors’ liberation and the day that recognizes our freedom. It is a day that commemorates Black people being released from enslavement. While recently commemorated as a federal holiday, Juneteenth has been a staple of the Black community for years.

The holiday is sacred for the Black community, and we should determine how it is represented – not out-of-touch corporations.  It reminds us that “nobody is free until everybody is free,” as civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer once said. It gives a reminder of where we were, where we are and where we are going – something that Instagram infographics don’t exactly get the gist of.

Instead of posting to social media, Juneteenth warrants genuine celebration toward those who are to be celebrated. People should educate themselves on Black history, use their voices to spread Black history, find events throughout the city and perhaps one of the most important, shop from Black-owned businesses.

Juneteenth is important because it is history. It deserves real recognition, not just a holiday everybody gets off from work, not just a shirt in a department store, but the recognition of those around the United States. It deserves the parades and the fireworks, it deserves the lights and splendor, every part of it.

The celebration doesn’t stop when the clock strikes midnight. Juneteenth isn’t just a day — it’s a people, it’s a history, it’s freedom.

Featured Illustration by Cuinn Cornwell

About Author

Lauryn Barron

Lauryn Barron

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