Juneteenth: A Day to Celebrate, Lift Each Other Up & Reflect

'Juneteenth is a pivotal milestone in our nation's journey toward freedom'

By Natasha Bethea Goodwin, publisher of Macaroni KID District Heights, Md. June 2, 2023

As a proud African American, Juneteenth has always held a special place in my heart. It symbolizes true freedom and serves as an opportunity for me to pay homage to my ancestors. 

I vividly recall not too long ago passionately advocating at my workplace for the recognition of Juneteenth as an official holiday. Thankfully, my plea didn't go unnoticed, and our leadership made the wise decision to acknowledge its importance. 

Then, in 2021, something incredible happened – Juneteenth was officially declared a federal holiday by President Joe Biden when he signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law. It was an unforgettable milestone for our culture, and as African Americans, we finally felt seen and acknowledged. This historic moment meant so much to us.

What the holiday means

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is a day that commemorates a remarkable event: The moment when news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached the last enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865. Can you believe it? That's two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was actually issued! 

Juneteenth is a pivotal milestone in our nation's journey toward freedom. It's not just a celebration. It's a powerful reminder of the obstacles African Americans have confronted and continue to face in their quest for equality. This holiday encourages us to take a moment and reflect on the progress we've made since that historic day in 1865, while also recognizing the work that still lies ahead in the pursuit of true racial justice and inclusivity.

A day to celebrate, uplift, and reflect

Photo courtesy of Natasha Bethea Goodwin

The author, in the middle, with her friends and family celebrating Juneteenth.

When Juneteenth comes around, it's a day I always look forward to spending with my loved ones. It's all about connecting, having a great time, and celebrating together. 

We like to gather around for a fun-filled BBQ, where we not only satisfy our taste buds, but also nourish our souls with meaningful conversations. 

We share stories of success and achievement, stories that would surely make our ancestors beam with pride. It's incredible to see how far we've come and the barriers we've overcome. 

But it doesn't stop there. 

We brainstorm ideas, share our dreams, and talk about the ways we can contribute to the advancement of our community. It's all about uplifting each other and building a brighter future for generations to come.

Celebrating Juneteenth with kids

Monkey Business Images | Canva

Juneteenth is also a perfect opportunity to engage with our children, teaching them about the significance of this day and the struggles that many people have endured. 

By celebrating Juneteenth, we're ensuring our children grow up with a deeper understanding of history and a commitment to creating a more equitable future. 

As parents, we can engage in age-appropriate conversations, sharing stories and historical facts about the significance of this day. We can watch documentaries or movies with our children that shed light on the experiences of African Americans throughout history. We can even participate in local community events or organize our own activities as a family that celebrate the achievements and contributions of the African American community.

Read more: How To Talk To Children About Juneteenth

Juneteenth is an opportunity for everyone, regardless of background, to empathize, listen, and learn from the experiences of African Americans. It's a time to amplify their voices, acknowledge the ongoing struggles, and actively participate in creating a more equitable society. 

Understanding and celebrating Juneteenth is not limited to a single day. It's a continuous journey of growth and appreciation that we can embark on throughout the year.

Natasha Bethea Goodwin is the publisher of Macaroni KID District Heights, Md.