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Source: Unsplash

Juneteenth is a federal holiday in the United States that celebrates the emancipation of African American slaves. This holiday is not only a chance to celebrate the freedom of African Americans, but a time to spark conversations. Especially in our generation, Juneteenth is a day of celebrating culture and reflection of our history.

On the eve of January 1st, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by Abraham Lincoln. To the enslaved, this day was known as "Freedom's Eve," because African Americans gathered around their churches for service in prayer. Their prayers were answered as they were declared free in Confederate states. Unfortunately, this freedom would not be declared yet, because the proclamation was not under Confederate control. On June 19th, 1865, 250,000 enslaved black people in the state of Texas were granted their freedom from slavery. Two years later during the Reconstruction era, other slaves across the nation were granted their freedom.

Going into 2020, this was not only the year of a global pandemic, but this was also the year of the countless killings and police brutalities in the African American community. Especially the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. This started the uprising from the Black Lives Matter movement. With this movement, public awareness pervaded across the nation. On June 17th, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the legislation to have Juneteenth become an official federal holiday.

Source: Unsplash

Here are a few ways to celebrate Juneteenth:

  • Support your local black owned businesses (clothing stores, restaurants, etc.)

  • Attend parades, festivals, and celebrations

  • Reflect on the history of Juneteenth with others (museums, books, documentaries, etc.)

New York City is hosting a few Juneteenth events throughout the city:

Juneteenth should not only be a day of freedom, but a lesson for the present and future generation of the African American community: never lose faith, hope, and joy. Even though slavery tried to break African Americans, they kept moving, because they knew that one day, oppression would no longer keep them bound.

Today, the African American community faces circumstances such as racial slurs, stereotypes, bias, due to our culture of expression. This holiday comes to us for another year, as a reminder of the importance of diversity, culture, and history. Juneteenth shows us that we come from descendants of greatness and power, and no matter what we face, all we have to do is persevere and strive for the best. Support the businesses, attend the celebrations, but most importantly, reflect on the history— history should never repeat itself.

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