Can we, as a people, collectively lift our voices and sing the praises of Blackish for last night’s episode? The episode titled Juneteenth: The Musical is officially up there with their previous episode titled Lemons. Both of these episodes showcase why I love Kenya Barris and his amazing writing crew. They make you think, they make you laugh, and they make you feel, not because they are manipulating the emotion on cue, but because they hit a chord so deep; one cannot help but to have a visceral reaction.
Needless to say, watch these episodes.
What’s on my mind today is Juneteenth, or as I’ve written it in different posts and journals #DCXIX, the roman numerals for 619 a.k.a June 19th. The Blackish episode struck me because it wasn’t simply about teaching white people about Juneteenth, it was teaching my people as well. Growing up, my family celebrated Kwanzaa religiously. My mom was not playing and we searched high and low for a black candle every year, displayed our three ears of corn for the children, lit the Kinara every night and exchanged meaningful educational gifts. It was nice, it fed our entrepreneurial spirits and made my siblings and I believe in the strength of our community.
I didn’t start observing Juneteeth until I turned 30. I was pregnant at the time and while I’ve always known about Juneteeth, that was my first year truly setting aside the day to pray, meditate and reflect on what it meant to be free from the physical shackles. I thought about the future generation in my belly and I felt a need to take a moment to pay tribute to my great great grandfather Julius Watts, who later became a patented inventor but was born a slave, and his parents, Robert and Mary Watts also slaves. I wanted to remember to fight the freedomless freedom we live in today.
I never celebrated with a party or exuberance, just a single day of reflection. Last night’s episode changed the whole game for me. While I haven’t celebrated July 4th in about 10 years, I never thought to replace the festive flair of the 4th for the 19th. In the episode it mentioned things like strawberry pop, or hibiscus tea and red velvet cake. I also found out the first recorded Juneteeth celebration happened in 1890 in Seattle. I don’t know the traditions of this holiday or if there is anything official and because of my ignorance I decided to look deeper.
The design of the Juneteenth flag depicts a bursting “new star”, on the horizon. The star represents A NEW FREEDOM, A NEW PEOPLE, A NEW STAR. The red, white, and blue colors communicate that the American Slaves, and their descendants were all Americans.” – crwflags.com
I’ve noticed there are two versions of the flag. One with a bowed dividing line and one with a straight line. I don’t know which is the utmost official but find one and wave it proudly.
Red is for the blood. From what I researched, in West Africa red drinks usually marked a special occasion. The West African Slaves brought over this tradition and the two red drinks that hail from West Africa are hibiscus tea and kola nut tea. During early Juneteeth celebrations in the late 1800’s the red drink used was red lemonade after which it transitioned to red pop. After the invention of powered sugar drinks such as Kool-Aid the red drink moved out of just Juneteenth and into the everyday of Black households. As with many things, the significance lost it’s luster and meaning and derogatory labels such as jungle juice and ghetto pop were given to almost all sweetened red drinks.
So, next June 19th, when your Juneteeth guests are sweltering in the late spring sun, offer them some sweet hibiscus tea punch.
Red Velvet cake and watermelon has been served as well. Because of the time of year, certain vegetable where fresh, such as corn and fresh meat such as chickens and pig. Bring on the BBQ.
What struck me is traditions such as watermelon and red pop are things some white people have made us feel ashamed of. I remember some of my Black friends parents thought it was ghetto and uncouth to drink red pop or to eat watermelon. These are our traditions and yet, they’ve been painted with such a dark mark, even our own people shun them. Why do we allow this? Well,that’s another post for another day.
There are wreaths done up in the flag colors or simple african print. Revelers have worn everything from African attire to their Sunday Best. In the end, it’s a day to reflect. Before you chomp down on your ribs and red drink, take a moment to feel how they must have felt in that moment. Thank them for not giving up and living so you could live as well. If you are blessed enough to know the names of your slave ancestors, say their name as you burn a candle in their honor. Burn a candle for those that never saw June 19, 1865 arrive. Say the names of those who broke away and helped those left behind to snatch freedom early. Look each other in the eye, pledge to use the freedoms we do have to fight against the freedoms we don’t. Don’t say you’ll celebrate it and let the day pass, don’t just type the words on a Facebook post. Celebrate it just as you would the 4th, or Christmas. Juneteenth is our first celebration in the African American community, without it we couldn’t celebrate anything else.
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF TEXAS
GALVESTON, TEXAS, June 19, 1865
General Order #3
The people are informed that in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them, become that between employer and hired labor. The freed are advised to remain at their present homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.
By order of
F.W. Emery, Maj. & A.A.G.
I found great info here: