Celebrating Juneteenth

Advocate, organizer, and educator Kari Fulton provides thoughts on the celebration of Juneteenth. Rashid Darden from FGC provides additional reporting.

FGC will be closed in observance of Juneteenth on Monday, June 19, 2023.

This month I’ve had several conversations about celebrating Juneteenth, the federal holiday which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African American people. Juneteenth was first celebrated in Galveston, Texas, on the anniversary of the date that enslaved people in Texas were issued notice of General Order No. 3, the legal decree enforcing the Emancipation Proclamation.

What I have realized is that most of the people who are not African American are still somewhat unsure of how to celebrate Juneteenth or if it’s even appropriate to celebrate Juneteenth.

To this I say: first of all, “Nobody’s Free Until Everybody’s Free.” So said Fannie Lou Hamer at the founding of the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971. Before the word intersectionality was coined, Hamer, like many activists before and after her, insisted that freedom for only some was not freedom at all.

Secondly, Juneteenth is about more than the last group of people to receive notice of the abolition of chattel slavery. It also represents the end of the United States Civil War. If we had another civil war, I can almost guarantee you that (based on current events) Texas would still be holding out to beyond the end.

Thirdly, the only people who gained “independence” on the Fourth of July were male property owners of Western European Descent. Black people in the United States were still enslaved, women were still disenfranchised, and the rights of immigrants changed from decade to decade, seemingly to match the ever-evolving American definitions of whiteness and desirability.

I pray y’all take the time to reflect on the long journey to inclusive freedom for which we are all still fighting in America.

But what can non-Black people do to celebrate Juneteenth?

Donate to an African American-led community organization.

There are Black-led 501(c)(3) organizations in your community that are historically underfunded. Consider browsing through GuideStar to find one or ask Friends in your meeting for recommendations. You may also donate to:

Buy multiple things from multiple African American owned businesses.

Learn your ancestry.

Talk to your elders. Do a DNA test from a trusted company, such as 23andMe, AncestryDNA, or African Ancestry. Find out where and what your family was doing at the time of the Civil War.

Learn about immigration law.

Learn about immigration law in the United States and why it was once illegal and is still very hard for immigrants from African and Afro-Caribbean countries to make it to the United States.

Send a banned book.

Send a banned book to a friend in Florida. Remember that freedom must be maintained, or we can lose it.

  • The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
  • Beloved, Toni Morrison
  • The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin
  • Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Boy: Racism, Injustice, and How You Can Be a Changemaker, Emmanuel Acho
  • Ace of Spades, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé
  • All Boys Aren’t Blue, George M. Johnson
  • Black Brother, Black Brother, Jewell Parker Rhodes
  • Grown, Tiffany D. Jackson
  • Push, Sapphire
  • Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, Ibram X. Kendi
  • The 1619 Project: a New Origin Story, Nikole Hannah-Jones
  • The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas

All of these books are available for purchase through the QuakerBooks of FGC storefront at BookShop.org.

Do not work on Juneteenth.

The holiday commemorating the birth Martin Luther King, Jr., has been coopted into a so-called “Day on, and not a day off.” While the spirit behind this idea is noble, it flies in the face of the purpose of a holiday: celebration and recreation on a day no work is to be done. The horse may be out of the barn for the King holiday, but I urge those of you with the power or ability to institute Juneteenth as a bona fide holiday at your workplace to do so. Do not create a day of labor in the community for your staff on a day intended for rest.

In conclusion, Juneteenth is a national holiday now. I will not be working on Monday. You shouldn’t either.

Kari Fulton (she/her) is an award-winning Environmental and Climate Justice advocate, organizer, educator, and policy advisor.   Fulton has over 15 years of experience in Environmental and Climate Justice working with diverse domestic and global coalitions to coordinate campaigns, leadership development programs, summits, and conventions. Her work has been featured in various media including Black Entertainment Television (BET), Teen Vogue, C-SPAN, and Chinese Global Television Network (CGTN). Fulton serves as the Organizing Director for the Center for Oil and Gas Organizing – a new initiative to connect communities to federal regulators, and as an adjunct lecturer in Howard University’s Interdisciplinary Studies department.

Fulton is an alumna of Howard University (B.A., Communications, and Culture) and Georgetown University (Master of Policy Management). You can follow her work by visiting www.checktheweather.net

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