5 Things to Remember this Juneteenth

Last year, the U.S. government officially recognized Juneteenth as a federal legal holiday commemorating the end of slavery.  In reality, it marks the date – June 19th 1865 – more than 2 and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation that the “last” enslaved people in Galveston, Texas got the news of their freedom.  For many folks across the country this announcement meant simply an extra paid holiday.  For many others it was a wakeup call to begin learning about the history of Juneteenth for the first time. But for Black Americans Juneteenth has long been a source of both a celebration of life and hope and a remembrance and honoring of the struggles of their ancestors, many that have persisted to the present day.

With the recent scandal of Wal-Mart extracting an ice cream flavor from a Black-owned business, trademarking it and rebranding under Juneteenth (before being pulled after public outcry), communities calling out the gentrification of the day, and folks spotlighting the hypocrisy of a nation celebrating Juneteenth while 35 states have passed or proposed legislation banning of critical race theory, it’s even more important to bring intention and action to this year’s commemoration.

Here are 5 things to remember on Juneteenth 2022.

  1. It’s a day of celebration for Black Americans. Juneteenth continues to be an important day of celebration, rest and community for Black Americans. Nicole A. Taylor’s new Juneteenth cookbook, Watermelon and Red Birds, celebrates the food, drink and culture of Juneteenth through tradition, 21st-century flavors, stories, recipes and a guide to BIPOC-owned food companies. She explains in a Civil Eats interview, “Even though we’re still fighting, we still can celebrate, and we still can be happy and still gather around the table. That was my goal, to show that there’s this dichotomy.” In a 2021 interview with Colorlines, then 94 year old Ms. Opal Lee, who is called the “Grandmother of Juneteenth”, talks about both her childhood celebrations “…like they were like Christmas. We’d go to the fairgrounds and there would be parades, music and food and games. It was an all-day affair on the 19th day of June,” along with how she’s utilized the holiday to push for awareness and change to address disparities in health care, jobs, housing and the impact of climate change.
  1. It’s a day for solidarity and action. For non-Black Americans, Juneteenth is an important day to recommit yourself to the fight for racial justice. Use your voice to call for policies that address systemic racism and injustice, fight for thriving wages, reparations, reversing the bans on critical race theory and ending voter suppression, or join the march on Washington with the Poor People’s Campaign on June 18th. Use your spending power to support BIPOC business – check out the app EatOkra to connect with Black-owned restaurants, eateries, and food trucks nationwide.
  1. Make the connections. Learn about the history of Juneteenth and the lasting impact of slavery today. Read The National Museum of African American History and Culture’ s account of The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth, where you will get a historical overview along with a Juneteenth reading list, resources for children and youth, and a social media toolkit! It’s important to make connections between history and the injustice Black communities face today.  The Innocence Project explains that there is nothing modern about the “modern-day slavery” practices in U.S. prisons that disproportionally incarcerate Black people forced to work for little to no wages while “private companies save millions of dollars each year by contracting prison labor.”  Read their article to learn more and meet some of the wrongly convicted and now exonerated victims,   Learn more about how America is failing its Black mothers, who are three times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes than white women according to the CDC. From the disproportionate impact on Black women of restrictions on abortion access and the formula crisis, to the widely criticized comments dismissing the systemic issues at the root of Black maternal health disparities by GOP Senator Bill Cassidy, it’s easy to see the legacy of slavery in the diminished societal value still placed on Black humanity today.
  1. Black Food Sovereignty and racial justice is key to ending hunger. Our food system was built off the backs of enslaved Africans and continues to exploit communities of color across the U.S. For Black farmers, growing food and stewardship of land is an act of resistance and empowerment, and a critical part of nourishing their communities. Read the reflections from WhyHunger’s Senior Co-Directors of U.S. Programs Suzanne Babb and Lorrie Clevenger about what Juneteenth means to them as Black farmers, here, or learn how the conversation around Black Food Sovereignty is shifting from a 2020 Juneteenth gathering of 20 Black farmers, chefs and activities profiled in Civil Eats.  Go one step further and lend your voice to the continued push for reparations for Black farmers and advocate for the rights of workers along the food chain.
  1. Donate to Black-led organizations and collectives. What better way to celebrate and commemorate Juneteenth than investing in Black-led, community centered solutions? There are countless Black-led non-profits, collectives and organizations to choose from, but we’d like to uplift just a few of WhyHunger‘s partners who are doing incredible work to nourish communities, build food justice and advance Black food sovereignty:
    • BUGS ( Black Urban Growers)Founded in 2010, BUGS is committed to building networks and community support for growers in both urban and rural settings. Through education and advocacy around food and farm issues, the nurture collective Black leadership to support Black agrarianism and reimagine Black futures. Based in New York City, BUGs reach is national through its annual conference. 2022 will be the 10th conference and additional programming, networking and educational activities are planned throughout the year. Click here to make a donation!
    • Black Church Food Security NetworkThis network of Black churches is organized to advance health, wealth and power for their people. BCFSN co-creates sustainable food systems across the United States that are anchored by Black churches working in partnership with Black farmers and small business owners.  They are building a food value supply chain from Jacksonville, Florida to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania via an initiative called the A.R.C. – Assembling our Resources for Community Sustainability – to help build the infrastructure needed to withstand the ramifications of climate change, food scarcity, and white supremacy by organizing Black churches to serve as food hubs, food distributors, and economic engines for more just and locally managed supply chains. Click here to make a donation!
    • Earth-Bound Building – This collective creates functional, durable, and affordable homes and farm infrastructure for rural landowners and farmers in Southern Maryland. As a Black-owned cooperative, they are also building a new kind of economy that’s rooted in sharing resources, supporting one another, providing fair and equal pay, and working in harmony with the land. Earth-Bound understands that nourishing communities is about so much more than food and that ecological farm infrastructure is at the heart of a just and thriving food system. Click here to make a donation!
    • Black Mycelium Project – Black Mycelium Project is nurturing a network of Black Queer interconnected land projects where skills are built and shared, relationships are nurtured and rooted in mutual support, and folks are given opportunities to dream, shed what is no longer useful, heal, love, and grow on sacred and lovingly stewarded land. They are a formation of Black queer, transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming people who are farmers, organizers, siblings, healers, medicine makers, equestrians, travelers, visionaries, aunties, musicians, seed savers, storytellers, and so much more. Their folk are based in Washington State, Illinois, North Carolina, Georgia, California, Louisiana, and Mississippi.  Click here to make a donation!
    • Southeastern African American Farmers’ Organic Network (SAAFON) – SAFFON is a network of Black farmers in the Southeastern United States who are committed to culturally relevant, ancestrally guided, and ecologically sustainable agricultural – based living. They are dedicated to creating an alternative food system that places the wellbeing of Black farmers and Black communities at its center. Click here to make a donation!