As Juneteenth goes mainstream, how best to honor such a complicated day?
This month marks only the 2nd year that America celebrates Juneteenth as a national holiday. As white folks in Little Rock, Arkansas catch heat for hosting a holiday soul food festival 😬, Philadelphia’s Black population – our largest demographic – braces for an onslaught of tourists expecting… what, exactly?
Wawa Welcome America has been the country’s biggest 4th of July celebration for years, and now it’s grown to include Juneteenth as its kick-off event, with a big block party, and a day of free admission to the African American Museum. For 16 days, the city celebrates freedom and independence with free concerns, movies, fireworks… It’s all very inclusive and family-friendly.
But is it the best way to commemorate Juneteenth? While the story behind this holiday is certainly inspirational, it also hearkens back to a depraved and shameful time in our country’s history. Literally, the very name “Juneteenth” acknowledges that slavery didn’t just end one day because Lincoln. It was a hard-fought process, against bad faith actors.
And now we’re just supposed to lump Emancipation in with the Declaration of Independence and party down? As if we’re all caught up now?
For over a century, Juneteenth has been unique to Black Americans – a lot of white people had never even heard of it until after George Floyd and the BLM protests started national conversations about diversity and racial equity. When leaders responded with a new holiday, grassroots news was the first to point out the deflection. But as community supporters, these same local outlets were also quick to recognize the huge potential in Juneteenth to uplift African American art, businesses, schools, and families.
“I’m really conflicted over Wawa’s decision to begin their big Fourth of July celebration with Juneteenth,” said Kyndal Chase (HeartCityTV) in a meeting with other N.I.C.E. partners, “It’s great to see an important day elevated. But it’s still scary, thinking about how wrong the marketing could go, the messaging. When people still really haven’t got a grip on what this holiday is.”
Should Juneteenth be a celebration? A day of reflection? Both? Whatever it is, for Rashaun Williams (WHYY), the focus should be clear. “When Black people celebrate Black people stuff, we really don’t want to see white people,” he said. “It’s important that we say that, no matter how uncomfortable it is, because Black people have been through enough to have to share this important day with everyone. We just want to celebrate us with us.” For Rashaun, white people should commemorate the day by supporting Black communities.
As a collaboration of various grassroots platforms, Revive Local Paper is uniquely poised to navigate this tetchy terrain. Publisher POC conceded she, too, was torn between the literacy behind Juneteenth, and duty she feels to broadcast so many great community events. “People are excited to get out and celebrate life, just for the enjoyment of it. Because that’s what freedom is, right?” she said, adding, “And there’s so much going on, everyone can find their own balance, their own way to appreciate this holiday.”
In that spirit, we present this year’s Revive Local Juneteenth Guide, with special events for everyone: families, foodies, shopaholics, history buffs, activists – whoever you are, we hope you’re inspired by our handy graphic below to enjoy a memorable (and hopefully meaningful) celebration.
For the full calendar of events, see our City Wide Guide HERE. Includes links to tickets, registrations, contact info and additional listings, updated regularly.
CLICK HERE for the full calendar of events including more listings plus links to tickets, registrations, contact info and more.