How to Celebrate Juneteenth – The New York Times

Kenneth Timmons, who works for a federal authorities company in Houston, mentioned the very first thing he normally does earlier than each Juneteenth is take the time without work work. Mr. Timmons normally invitations mates over to prepare dinner and eat collectively.

“My co-workers know why I’m off, I tell them I don’t work Juneteenth,” Mr. Timmons, 47, mentioned. “I don’t work on my Independence Day.”

Born and raised in Lufkin, Texas, a city greater than 100 miles northeast of Houston, Mr. Timmons remembers attending neighborhood Juneteenth celebrations as a baby, the place he would watch rodeo reveals, pageants, eat barbecue and take part in calf chasing contests.

“Even though the United States celebrates July 4 as their independence, we were still considered slaves,” mentioned Mr. Timmons. “So for us, that is the day that our ancestors were finally released from servitude and slavery and could escape the South.”

“There’s something about black folks and parks for celebration,” she said. “Being outdoors together and in parks is a big part of black culture. And that’s why it is so hurtful and offensive when people try to police that behavior.”

Michael Hurd, 71, the director of the Texas Institute for the Preservation of History and Culture at Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas, spent years studying black history. But while growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, he had no serious knowledge about the holiday. He simply knew Juneteenth as “the picnic,” with barbecue, fried chicken, pies and “red soda water.”

Mr. Hurd plans to spend this Juneteenth reflecting on black history in the U.S. and the recent killings of unarmed black people, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

“There’ve been a lot of people who’ve suffered tremendously for our survival,” he said. “And that’s what I think about — and given the current events and where our country is now, I’m going to think about it a lot more.”

For some African-Americans, this year’s Juneteenth is difficult to celebrate, as black people are still fighting for equal rights in labor, health care, housing, education and more. A more widespread recognition of the holiday and the spread of approved time off from work is not enough.

“Until corporate leadership looks different, until there are actual policies that are created in this country to protect the marginalized and that uplift the marginalized voices,” said Lazarus Lynch, 26, I’m not interested in the quick service solutions.”

Mr. Lynch, an artist, chef and author in the New York City borough of Queens, said that while he appreciates the history and believes in honoring the ancestors that came before him, he said it’s complicated, because black people are not “afforded the luxury” of taking a break from fighting for justice.

“It’s also a day that is deeply painful for me because I realize that we’re still in this fight,” said Mr. Lynch. “There are still so many systemic oppressions that black people face.”

For their first real Juneteenth celebration, Taina Spicer, 26, and her girlfriend, Mikaela Berry, 24, are going to spend it resting and also joining a Harlem Renaissance-themed online poetry reading, hosted by Ms. Spicer’s sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. Ms. Spicer, a visual artist based in New Jersey, said this allows them to take a break from their fight against injustices and focus on self-preservation.

“Your rest and recovery and celebration is revolutionary in itself, because that is what people don’t want you to do,” Ms. Spicer said. “They want you to be tired. They want you to be beaten down.”

According to Ms. Berry, a social justice worker who grew up in Los Angeles but has family roots in Texas, celebrating Juneteenth is important because being able to exist as “black queer women” happened with the help of their ancestors.

“Like holding her hand in public is like what my ancestors would have wanted,” she said, “because that’s me being happy in my unapologetic true self.”

In Illinois, this Juneteenth will be a departure for Deborah Birmingham-Myers, who started celebrating the holiday with her family 20 years ago. This will be the first that she’ll spend without her husband, Mark Myers, who died last fall. He was 58.

“It’s going to feel really different because Juneteenth was special for my husband,” said Ms. Birmingham-Myers, who is a teacher from Glenwood, a suburb of Chicago. “My husband was the life of the party. He enjoyed life. He lived life to the fullest. He was a jokester. He could sing. He could dance. He could cook.”

For her, there’s no Juneteenth without education, so along with barbecue, line dancing and country music, Juneteenth trivia games are an important part of their family tradition.

One of her daughters, Melody Myers, 26, said that her father had a big presence at their Juneteenth celebrations and she appreciates that she was taught from a very young age to be proud of her culture and blackness.

“Doing that was really helpful,” said Ms. Myers, who is based in New York City. “A lot of people are talking about it and so now I’m like, ‘Oh, I was hip to that, 20-something years ago.’ It was something that we always looked forward to.”

“Black people are the full spectrum of humanity. And you see that there,” said Liara Tamani, a Houston-based writer and author. She grew up in Houston and remembers spending Juneteenth in Hermann Park or Emancipation Park, which was purchased in 1872 specifically for Juneteenth celebrations. “You see black people throwing Frisbees. Black people playing cards. Black people kissing, black people reading poetry to each other.”

Ms. Tamani, 43, said she believes it’s important to celebrate all parts of black humanity.

“Just as hard as we are working to fight for our equality,” said Ms. Tamani, “we at the same time need to be celebrating ourselves. And showing people all there is to celebrate.”

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