What to Do on Juneteenth?


by Yvette Beauchamp-Grace, M. Ed.

I only learned about Juneteenth as a college student. More recently, I discovered that there were symbolic foods associated with the celebration. The red foods and beverages represent sacrifice, power and transition.  Red was represented in theHibiscus tea, barbecued meat with a red barbecue sauce, red beans and rice, red velvet cake, strawberry drink or red Kool Aid and watermelon (which happened to be in season). These foods along with cornbread, Southern tea cakes, greens, sweet potatoes and baked macaroni and cheese have become the traditional fare. In the article “Juneteenth and Barbecue” by Daniel Vaughn, Vaughn states that whole communities would gather around a barbecue pit in the post-Civil War era to celebrate Juneteenth.

My recipe for Southern Tea Cakes

The Reason for the Season

Juneteenth, as a shiny new federal holiday, threatens to remind us all that no holiday is safe from becoming a reason to come together for a great day . . . at the mall. However, what should we as descendants of stolen Africans commemorate and celebrate on June 19th?

Could we perhaps use the day to share information about our current progress in the areas of finance, homeownership, literacy, professional and graduate degrees earned? Could we count the number of Black-owned banks, sports teams, institutions of higher learning and Black-owned investment firms? Maybe we could celebrate our decreasing incidences of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and suicide. Could it be a time to measure the exercise of social justice, or lack thereof, and continues to call for policies that will address the tragedies of George Floyd, Tamir Rice, Michelle Cusseaux?

They say, you can manage what you cannot measure. If that is so, then we should first begin with a measurement.

Checklist to Start Now

Next year will mark 160 years since Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. One hundred and sixty years, or 21 generations.  This year, according to Research.com, 452,760 African Americans graduated from college, with the largest group graduated from Howard University. What’s our target for next year?

Next year, let’s look at ways to take a look at our progress in terms of economic empowerment, literacy, academic achievement, financial solvency, homeownership, voting participation, lower incarceration and recidivism, social justice and policies legislated to promote safety, growth and prosperity in our communities. We can make our wellness a personal goal thus reducing the numbers of African Americans who perish from chronic diseases that stem from poor diet and inadequate health practices. This annual report card and celebration can further serve as a catalyst for specific actions towards reducing chronic diseases and building an academic and financial legacy within the community.

Beyond only honoring freedom, Juneteenth may also serve as a potent reminder of the progress that has been made and the ongoing efforts required to secure the prosperity and well-being of African Americans. This is especially true when it comes to voting, social justice, and health. Juneteenth may leave a lasting legacy of empowerment and advancement via group effort and unwavering dedication

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