Celebrating Juneteenth: Centering Black Joy As the Fulcrum for Liberation

Updated: Jun 20, 2020

"On Juneteenth we think about that moment in time when the enslaved in Galveston, Texas received word of their freedom.  We imagine the depth of their emotions, their jubilant dance and their fear of the unknown."

I was first introduced to Juneteenth via an Instagram post a few years ago. I remember feeling a sense of enlightenment and gratitude for the Black Texans who gave me the language and framework for celebrating Black liberation without using pain as the fulcrum. 

In many ways, Juneteenth frees us from using Black trauma as the lens through which we view our lives.  Today I am honouring this Black AF holiday and its focus on education and self-improvement, by further familiarising myself with its traditions and thinking about the ways in which I can apply them to my own understandings of Diasporic Blackness. I’m engaging with speculative design, a concept I learned from Ari Melenciano of Afrotectopia, to understand how I can build upon the intersections in our collective fights for liberation while grounding my journey in the joy I feel whenever I encounter a new online space that opens the door for me to learn from, and celebrate Blackness across man-made borders. 

"On Juneteenth we come together young and old to listen, to learn and to refresh the drive to achieve. It is a day where we all take one step closer together - to better utilize the energy wasted on racism. Juneteenth is a day that we pray for peace and liberty for all." 

While celebrating the Black elders who persistently strived to center joy, I challenge readers to go one step further and think about how we intentionally fight for Black liberation that automatically centers the disabled, neuro-divergent, incarcerated, housing and food insecure, queer, fat, women, especially Trans women, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming folks, undocumented and formerly undocumented immigrants, sex workers, and otherwise unheard. 

How can we find ways to celebrate our individual and collective vitality while we are living, and not after we’ve died?

How are we celebrating those who’ve continuously reminded us that Blackness is not a footnote or an afterthought? How are we celebrating Blackness being the whole damn page?

In a time when we’re seeing Black traditions diluted by corporations who mask their systemic racism with optical allyship and hiding behind Black aesthetics, how can we turn our attention towards the Black communities who’ve been here, who’ve been saying this?  How can we turn our attention towards Black people who remind us that Blackness is not a PR or marketing strategy to shield whiteness from justified outrage? 

In the context of my learning about Juneteenth as a Black immigrant,  I’m celebrating the day I first felt affirmed in my long-considered departure from the 4th of July as the U.S. standard for celebrating independence. I’m celebrating the validation I felt when I could ease my internal struggles by declining to participate in the 4th when I often found myself shuddering at the waving of flags and the lighting of fireworks, as grounds for questioning “independence for whom?” 

I’m celebrating Juneteenth by immersing myself in art, healing, joy, and community spaces dedicated to reminding us that life isn’t merely meant for us to survive, but to thrive in all of our Blackness.

 Juneteenth is a reminder that Blackness is buoyant.

How I’m Celebrating Juneteenth

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