4 WAYS to celebrate juneteenth if you are not part of the black community

by Lauren Dubravec
June 17th, 2021

When the company I’m working for over the summer announced that we would have a day off in honor of Juneteenth, it made me a little uncomfortable. For those that don’t know, Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day, is the celebration of June 19th, 1865, the day when news of emancipation finally reached Galveston, Texas, ending slavery in the US.

As a white person, it feels weird to get a day off to celebrate a holiday that I don’t think I could ever fully understand. However, I’m glad that Juneteenth is getting the recognition and respect that it deserves and I think the triumph of the Black community over what is undoubtedly the most evil system in American history is something that the entire world should celebrate. So, with the help of writers Guimel DeCarvalho and Gina Cherelus, I compiled a list of things people outside of the Black community can do to honor and celebrate Juneteenth.

  • 1. Listen

As strongly as those of us outside of the black community might feel about the fight for racial justice, our voices and feelings should not be the focus of Juneteenth. Note: this does not mean sending paragraph texts or lists of questions to all of your black friends. They’ve done more than enough emotional labor over the past year (and likely well before that). Try reflecting on moments when your voice may have been prioritized over a BIPOC colleague or friend’s or checking out one of the thousands of podcasts and films by black creators. I like Layla Saad’s Good Ancestor Podcast and Justin Simien’s Netflix show, Dear White People.

  • 2. Read

The US is blessed with a lot of incredible Black authors. Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age are a few of my favorites. Keep in mind that there is more to black voices and experiences than racism and trauma. I’m willing to bet that you can find an article or book by a black author about whatever you’re interested in. Check out Mackenzie Jean-Phillipe’s list of 125 black-owned bookstores in the US to find a cool place to shop.

  • 3. Donate or Volunteer

This one is obvious, but a reminder never hurts. Look into local organizations that support the black community and find out how you can help. Black Girls Code, The Loveland Foundation, and the National Black Justice Coalition are just a few of the many creative organizations doing amazing things.

  • 4. Get off of Social Media and Start Talking to People

We all have the opportunity to be a positive influence for those closest to us. It’s not fun to call out people we love or, God forbid, may end up sitting next to during Thanksgiving dinner, but if we don’t do it, we’re leaving that emotional labor to a person of color somewhere down the line. It’s easy to post an Instagram story, it’s hard to call out racism in our own backyards or our own brains. We need to choose to do the hard things because Black and Brown people do not have a choice, and exerting our privilege to “opt out” only adds to their pain.