Juneteenth and the fight for racial justice

Two years ago President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, which establishes a holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the US. So what is Juneteenth and how can you celebrate it?


What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is short for June 19th, 1865, which marks the day federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce and ensure that all enslaved peoples were free. Union General Gordon Granger and his troops rode into Galveston and stood on Texas soil, giving the order to free enslaved people in Texas. Note that this announcement to the people of Galveston came two years after the signing of the emancipation proclamation. For many, Juneteenth represents freedom and the chance to honour those who came before us; those who resisted, those who survived, and their hopes for their descendants. Whilst Juneteenth is celebrated in the US, it is important to recognise the holiday in the UK in light of the role the nation played in the slave trade.


How is Juneteenth celebrated?

Juneteenth celebrations and traditions vary; there are parades, festivals and block parties where people gather to share food and play games. As well as public readings and singing, picnics and church services. Food also plays an important part, with barbecues being one of the most popular ways of marking the day with family and friends.


How can non-Black people honour Juneteenth?

Regarding non-Black people respectfully recognising Juneteenth, we recommend the following:

  1. Educate yourself.

Learn about Juneteenth’s history and the significance of the holiday. This can involve reading books, watching documentaries, or attending virtual or in-person events.

At Bruin, we have taken the time to curate a list of anti-racist resources through which your education journey might begin. To view this list of resources, click here.

  1. Support Black-Owned Businesses.

Consider supporting Black-owned businesses in your community or online. This can include purchasing products or services or sharing information about these businesses on social media.

Spending your money with Black-owned businesses during Juneteenth is crucial, as it helps pay homage to the economic resilience of Black people throughout history. By supporting these businesses, we contribute to economic empowerment, promote equality, and help bridge the racial wealth gap.

  1. Donate to Organisations that Support Black Communities.

Many organisations work to support Black communities and fight against racial injustice. Consider donating to one of these organisations to show your support and extend the organisation’s impact.

  1. Attend Juneteenth Events.

For many, Juneteenth is about building community. A large majority of cities and communities host parades, festivals, and concerts. Attend these events to learn more about the history of Juneteenth and to commune with others. Engage in research to learn about how your community is celebrating Juneteenth! A quick Google search should offer several options.

  1. Volunteer with an organisation that supports Black communities.

Volunteering with non-profit organisations that support Black communities during Juneteenth is essential to honour history, support community development, strengthen cultural awareness, and promote civic engagement. By volunteering, you can actively contribute to creating a more equitable and inclusive society.


A lasting legacy

While Juneteenth might fall on a particular calendar date, we must centre and remember the reason for the event all year. For centuries, Black people were not considered human. In so many ways, the impacts of that very notion have deep roots throughout all our systems in society. This Juneteenth, Bruin will be remembering that Juneteenth recognition efforts, even on the individual level, need to have a direct, positive impact on Black communities, or they are performative. As you look to celebrate Juneteenth, remember that your actions can contribute to the celebration or add to the performative smoke that clouds much of the corporate world.