Silhouette, profile of an African-American woman's head and shoulders. She's wearing a natural hairstyle with a yellow, red, black and green headband and heart-shaped earring. Beneath her it says "Juneteenth" in green decorative text and "Freedom Day" in red and yellow.
Culture,  Fashion,  Music

Happy Juneteenth!

This year, for the third time, many American employees are enjoying a day off to commemorate Juneteenth – the day that slavery finally ended in the United States.

Why for the third time? After all, Major General Gordon Granger proclaimed freedom for enslaved people in Texas over 150 years ago – on June 19, 1865 (tragically, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued). Well, the 2020 social upheaval and rise of the Black Lives Matter movement following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many more Black Americans spurred many cities, states and companies to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday, and in 2021, President Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law.

Although it’s a new federal holiday, Juneteenth has been commemorated in Texas and other locations for many years. Celebratory traditions often include public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, singing traditional songs, and the reading of works by noted African-American writers. Juneteenth celebrations may also include rodeos, street fairs, cookouts, family reunions, parties, historical reenactments, and Miss Juneteenth contests.

Amorah Lindsey, who is 10 years old.
Credit: Mason Trinca for The New York Times
Malachi Anderson of Belton, Texas.
Credit: Mason Trinca for The New York Times

In fact, my (current) home city of Portland, Oregon, held its first Black Rodeo this past weekend for Juneteenth. The sold-out event included bull riding, bareback riding and mutton busting (sheep riding) for the kids, plus roping lessons and mechanical bull riding. And, importantly, the event shared and celebrated the history of Black rodeo – a cultural touchstone so often associated with white Americans. Photographer and organizer Ivan McClellan explained the contradiction in today’s New York Times:

“You see the cowboy, and it’s a shorthand for independence and grit and all of these things about America,” said Mr. McClellan, who is Black. “But then you combine it with Black culture, and it just wiggles your brain and disrupts things that you thought were true.”

If you’re not into rodeos, there are other ways to celebrate Juneteenth!

Two of my favorite podcasts have recently published very timely episodes that celebrate Black culture and freedom. Find them in most podcast apps, or use the links below:

Ologies with Alie Ward

Each episode, Alie chats with a different “ologist” (basically a specialist in their field, often science-related) and asks them “smart” and “dumb” questions to discover all sorts of fascinating things about our world. Episode 324 is on Black American Magirology (FOOD, RACE & CULTURE) with Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson, author of the books “Eating While Black: Food Shaming and Race in America” and “Building Houses out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power,” and is an absolute delight! Learn about the difference between Southern cooking and “soul food,” and whether there’s a correct type of mac and cheese.

Hit Parade

Chris Molanphy, a pop-chart analyst and author of Slate’s “Why Is This Song No. 1?” series, storytells his way through a half-century of American chart history each month. As a music nerd I’m completely obsessed with this podcast – in fact, it inspired my own!

A few recent episodes that celebrate Black excellence and creativity in music are Give Up The Funk – a deep dive into ’70s funk acts like Kool & the Gang, Earth, Wind and Fire, and George Clinton & P-Funk; A Little Love and Some Tenderness – a look at how Darius Rucker, a Black singer from South Carolina, defied genre stereotypes twice – first with Hootie & the Blowfish, then with his solo country stardom; and latest episode, Yes We Can Can – that gives the Pointer Sisters their due as harmonizing innovators and genre-defying hitmakers.

And if you’d like to do a spot of online shopping while getting your culture download, here’s a list of 35 Black-owned fashion and beauty brands you can support.

However you celebrate, Happy Juneteenth!

This is not a sponsored post.