How to celebrate Juneteenth

Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 10:52 AM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - “I didn’t hear about Juneteenth until 35 years ago, when I got here,” Edward Downing, All Hands Cultural Community Center president, said.

Two men, one from Virginia and the other from Texas, grew up with very different experiences of the day that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

“Well, I’ve always remembered as a child celebrating Juneteenth through my parents,” JW Harris, All Hands Cultural Community Center vice president, said.

The holiday celebrates when federal troops arrived in Texas in 1865 with an order declaring all slaves to be free, and even as some hesitate to celebrate today, others struggled to observe the holiday immediately afterward.

“How do you celebrate the freedom when you don’t have money? You don’t have anywhere to go, you don’t have a job, so you can’t even make money,” Downing said.

While Juneteenth has been celebrated by various communities since its inception, it became a federal holiday only last year -- in the wake of nationwide protests. As interest in the holiday has grown, so have questions about how to celebrate it respectfully.

Cammie Dean, MSU’s Mosaic Cross-Cultural Center director, said the answer lies in acknowledgment.

“The majority of us, of all backgrounds in the spaces that we’re, didn’t create the problem but we can all be part of the solution,” Dean said. “And that ‘A’ for acknowledgment is about taking the time to figure out what you can do to make a difference within your own series of influence.”

In this case, acknowledgment means carving out time to celebrate the Juneteenth, whether that be through attending events or explaining the day to your kids.

“Become prouder of yourself, you work harder because you know of the circumstances that other people came through and so you can’t take anything for granted,” Harris said.

“Being a patriot may mean having celebrated Memorial Day and being excited about July 4th, but before we get there we’ve got Juneteenth and it was a major step for our country,” Dean said.

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