Juneteenth (also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day or Emancipation Day) is a day to honor and celebrate liberation. Today, the holiday celebrates Black culture, history and life, bringing people together to honor all those who came before us and fought for the rights and privileges we hold today. And, especially with years of protesting, donating and talking about race and racism in America, Juneteeth also gives us the opportunity to support, appreciate and educate through a host of activities. So, whether you’re hosting a barbecue or buying from Black-owned businesses, here’s how to celebrate Juneteenth this year.
How to Celebrate Juneteenth This Year
When Is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19—hence its name, the combination of "June" and "nineteenth." Though the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in January 1863, and the Confederates surrendered in April 1865, there were still nearly 250,000 enslaved African Americans in Texas until June 19, 1865, when their freedom was finally enforced. Though the holiday has been celebrated in various ways since 1866, Juneteenth officially became a federal holiday in 2021. This year we will be observing the holiday on Monday June 19, 2023.
1. Find An Event in Your Neighborhood
Juneteenth is a day filled with rodeos, parades and street fairs. At these events, you can expect music, performances and food. While the pandemic has shifted the way we celebrate, many events are popping up this year. States like Texas, Connecticut, Kentucky, Georgia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and New York already have information on how to join the festivities as early as June 10th.
2. Join Opal's Walk for Juneteenth
In hopes of educating the country about Juneteeth, in 2016, at the age of 89-years-old, activist Opal Lee began an annual 2.5-mile walk in honor of the 2.5 years it took for the official word of the Emancipation Proclamation to reach the enslaved people of Fort Lee, Texas. Last year, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, making it a federal holiday. So join the "Grandmother of Juneteenth" and register to walk alongside Lee in her hometown or participate virtually in your neighborhood.
3. Host Your Own Backyard Party
No events in your areas? Try a small gathering at home instead. The holiday has always been about community and bringing people together. So fire up the grill and host your own barbecue shindig. Invite your family and friends over and enjoy a day of fun games, delicious food and great music.
4. Cook Some Traditional Foods
Nothing says celebration like food, food and more food. You can opt for regular ol’ barbecue favorites or try your hand at traditional dishes associated with the holiday (and luckily we have a few cookbooks to get you started). Main courses like pork, jerk chicken or lamb are typically the star of the show. Plus most meals are traditionally red to represent the resilience of the enslaved— which is why strawberry soda and red velvet cake is kinda a staple at every party. (Oh, and if cooking isn’t your thing, order from a Black-owned restaurant instead.)
5. Support Black-owned Businesses
6. Listen to Black Artists
Music brings good vibes to any surrounding—plus June is also Black Music Month. Whatever genre you enjoy, put together a playlist highlighting your favorite artists. And if you’re ready to expand your song choices, Spotify has plenty of playlists like Black History Salute, The Black Power Mixtape and Queen that highlights past and present Black artists. We also made a playlist of our own featuring bops that celebrate Black love, joy and pride.
7. Watch Black TV Shows and Movies
There are TV shows, movies and documentaries that shed a light on the historical holiday. Watch shows like Black-ish and Atlanta (who have Juneteenth-centered episodes), films like Miss Juneteenth (a fictional look at the holiday’s pageants) and/or PBS’s docuseries Juneteenth Jamboree about the cultural significance of the day. But aside from learning more about Juneteenth, just put on one of your favorite classic (or recent) Black shows (like A Different World, That’s So Raven or Lovecraft Country) that showcase Black joy and culture in a positive light.
8. Read Books Written By Black Authors and Poets
Whether you want to brush up on your history or dive into a new world, pick up a book written by a Black author. Books by Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and Ralph Ellison are just a few iconic Black authors and poets. Also, check out your local Black-owned bookstore (or buy from them online) and browse through their collections. From fun picture books (like The ABCs of Black History Juneteenth for Mazie and Let's Celebrate Juneteenth) to YA novels (like The Hate U Give and Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America) there’s a book out there for whole family.
9. Visit An Exhibit Or Museum Dedicated to Black Culture
Immerse yourself in art and culture at a museum. Explore The Studio Museum, The National Museum of African American History and Culture, The National Civil Rights Museum and the Northwest African American Museum, to name just a few. Find a museum or cultural center near you (or even browse through sites with virtual exhibits to check out right at home).
10. Do Fun Arts and Crafts with Your Kids
If you have some kiddos, teach them about Juneteenth through arts and crafts activities. Crafting a Fun Life offers six ways to recreate the Juneteenth flag, which became a symbol of liberation and community since the late '90s. Gather some supplies and walk them through the significance of the flag before decorating your home in their crafts.
11. Donate to Organizations and Charities
Use this day to give back. There are organizations, mutual aids, bail funds and charities committed to fighting for the Black community every single day. Non-profits like Black Lives Matter, The Loveland Foundation and Justice for Breonna Taylor are a great start to giving whatever you can (especially Act Blue, The Bail Project and the Mutual Aid Hub that splits your donation into many community funds). There are also a bunch of petitions that need your attention, so Juneteenth is the perfect opportunity to make a difference.
12. Volunteer in Voter Registration
The first celebrations of Juneteenth were actually political rallies. One of the key things was helping freed enslaved people register to vote. Don’t just wait until the presidential elections to get involved—help folks register to vote, become a poll worker or get in touch with organizations like Rock The Vote, HeadCount and Fair Fight that need volunteers to spread awareness about voting rights and the importance of voting at a local, state and/or national level.
13. Learn About The History of Juneteenth
Although Juneteenth has been celebrated for more than 150 years, it's still a new national holiday that some might not know too much about. You can join a guided tour around Galveston, Texas (aka the birthplace of Juneteenth) to learn and see significant sites where the newly freed Texans were welcomed in 1865. The city will also be hosting a lecture series featuring historians, writers and guest speakers to teach and discuss the history. But if you can't make a trip to Texas, you can learn all about Juneteenth through educational videos, a reading list created by the National Museum of African American History & Culture or listen to a day-long symposium on Juneteenth hosted by the Library of Congress.