Up until last year, the most recent holiday officially adopted in the US as a federal holiday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983. All of that changed when, on June 17, 2021, Juneteenth was signed into law by President Joe Biden. Juneteenth is the celebration of June 19, 1865, when slaves in Texas were finally told they had been emancipated, despite the Emancipation Proclamation having been issued on January 1, 1863, over two years prior. Because of this, Juneteenth is often referred to as Emancipation Day.
While Juneteenth has been celebrated for over a century, there has been a severe lack of recognition for this holiday and its significance. This year, we’re taking this time around the holiday to remind ourselves of how much still needs to be done to eradicate systemic racism in our country. With that in mind, we put together some of the ways that we all can honor this important day and help make small but impactful changes in our own behavior that will help push things forward.
Never stop educating yourself.
Education is one of the most powerful tools we have when it comes to facing the many racial issues that still exist in our country. It’s incredibly important that we take it upon ourselves to learn about what is actually happening and, in turn, what we can do to improve our society together. In 2020, former NFL linebacker Emmanuel Acho launched a series of videos called “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man”. Throughout the series, he sat down with people of different backgrounds to discuss various racially-focused topics in an effort to provide a safe space for white people to have difficult conversations about race. This series was incredibly moving and is one we would definitely recommend checking out if you’re looking to begin or continue your own education in this space.
Making an effort to understand different perspectives is a critical part of the learning process, and can help people see things through a different lens - undoing negative patterns of thinking that we have grown up believing to be true. Armed with that knowledge, we can make more informed choices about who we are putting in office, both on a national and local level, to ensure policy changes are taking effect that will have a positive impact on the communities in which we live and work.
Support Black-owned businesses.
As a small business ourselves, we are always looking for ways to support local businesses in our community. Because of the many systemic issues that still negatively impact the Black community to this day, there are more challenges for Black business owners, ranging from unequal access to capital to difficulty sustaining ongoing support. While there are many larger issues at play here, we as consumers have many accessible ways to support Black-owned businesses.
When considering where to spend your hard-earned dollars, be mindful about where that money is going. Whether you’re making a purchase in person or online, use your wallet to to show your support by buying from Black-owned businesses. If you’re a little strapped for cash, consider using social media instead. Many people forget that following and engaging with the content of Black-owned businesses on social media will help them reach more consumers and, in turn, further grow their business. Making these intentional changes to your own behavior and patterns can substantially affect the future of these businesses. We’re highlighting a few Black-owned businesses that focus on health, wellness, and fitness in our local community in case you are looking for one to show some love to throughout the year!
Written Purpose - Fairfield, CT : A wellness studio looking to empower its patrons through the practice of yoga and meditation.
CT Massage & Fitness - Norwalk, CT : Boasting personalized treatment, this is more than just a gym - it’s a full-service training facility.
Volunteer or donate to key organizations.
There are many organizations working diligently to fight racial injustice and pave the way for a more equitable future for all people. Making contributions to organizations like these, whether that is by donating your personal time through volunteer opportunities or making monetary donations, can help support their initiatives and provide resources for their teams to continue to make an impact. If you don’t know exactly where to turn, here is a short list of organizations for you to check out and consider getting involved with.
The Equal Justice Initiative : Founded by Bryan Stevenson, EJI’s mission is to eradicate mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the US, challenge racial and economic injustice, and protect basic human rights for vulnerable individuals in America.
NAACP : The NAACP is working to creative an inclusive community where all people can exercise their basic human and civil rights without being discriminated against.
Color of Change : Color of Change builds campaigns that empower Black communities to challenge injustices and hold leaders of this country accountable to create a better America for Black people.
However you choose to celebrate Juneteenth this year, we encourage you to be mindful of making this a long-term commitment vs. a short-term one. It is easy to get swept up in the media attention surrounding the holiday and take some of these actions while it’s top of mind. The real work comes with making these types of adjustments year-round. Throughout the past few years, many Black-owned businesses saw boosts when the media was actively pressing these issues, but experienced severe whiplash when press coverage declined and the mass population lost interest. While the holiday is a good reminder of the work that needs to be done, let’s not lose sight of the fact that consistency is absolutely necessary to effect long-term, permanent change. We all must make an effort on a daily basis to make the world we live in a better place for everyone.