What is Juneteenth?
Despite the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the 250,000 enslaved people in the Confederate-controlled state of Texas were not aware of their freedom until two years later on June 19, 1865. That date became known as “Juneteenth” in Texas. Since then, it has become an annual celebration of freedom for African Americans. It is an officially or unofficially recognized holiday in 47 out of the 50 states and Washington, DC. In Oklahoma, State Representative Jason Lowe introduced legislation to declare June 19th as a state holiday in 2020.
For some Americans, Juneteenth has been widely known and celebrated. But until recent years, many were unaware of this annual celebration. This year there are many ways to learn about and celebrate Juneteenth as a family.
“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” –Maya Angelou
A starting point for incorporating Juneteenth into your family’s calendar of celebrations is by learning about its place in history and its significance. Stop by your local public library and pick out books about Juneteenth to read together as a family.
There are also some excellent family-friendly online resources that are available to explore together.
Like most major holidays, food is a centerpiece of Juneteenth celebrations. There are many ways for your family to create and share a Juneteenth meal together. Traditional Juneteenth meals include red-hued foods, desserts and beverages. Red is symbolic of the resilience of the enslaved people. Juneteenth feasts can include foods such as barbeque, cherry pie, and strawberry soda. Other traditional meal items include soul food—macaroni & cheese, collard greens, and fried chicken.
This year I asked our youngest to come up with a list of red food items that we could incorporate into our celebration. Her list included: strawberries, tomatoes, cherries, red cabbage, fruit punch, and red velvet cake—a favorite dessert of her late grandmother.
Our final menu for our 2021 Juneteenth celebration includes barbecued ribs, hot dogs, hot links, and chicken grilled by dad, our resident grill master, and our son, his sous chef. Our middle daughter will contribute to the meal by making her specialty: “cheesy mac and cheesy” (yes, it’s loaded with cheese). I will be making a strawberry salad and collard greens. And for fun, our youngest and I will round the meal out with a kid-friendly take on the red velvet cake: red velvet cake pops!
This year there are also opportunities for your family to celebrate Juneteenth with other local families and friends.
Juneteenth Festival – June 19
The City of Norman Parks and Recreation and several OU organizations will host a festival at Reaves Park (2051 Jenkins Ave) from 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM. The whole family can enjoy an evening of live music, performances, food trucks, games and more. Be sure to stick around for a fireworks finale!
Juneteenth on the East – June 19th & June 20th
Take the whole family to this family-friendly event happening on 23rd Ave., between North Kelham Ave. to North Hood St. From 3:00 PM – 9:00 PM you’ll enjoy live music, dance classes and performances, live mural painting, spoken word, food trucks, and a variety of vendors. On Sunday, June 20th, the organization will also host a family-friendly cookout at Scissortail Park. Following the cookout will be a screening of the Disney/Pixar movie “Soul” at 8:00 PM on the park’s Love’s Travel Stops Great Lawn.
Juneteenth Sunday Social Brunch – June 20
Gather your girlfriends or make a date with your spouse/partner and grab tickets to this brunch event sponsored by OKC Black Eats from 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM at Parlor OKC.
How does your family plan to celebrate?