Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when the news of emancipation reached the last group of enslaved people in Galveston, TX. Freedom is sweet, and must be celebrated. Full stop. Yet the indignation of the two and a half years between the Emancipation Proclamation, making slavery illegal, and June 19, 1865 is dwarfed by the 155 years and counting during which the promise of freedom has yet to be realized. The co-existence of tragedy and triumph, of pain and promise is at the heart of this day. That tension is at the heart of this moment for the US and the world as we observe Juneteenth 2020.
Companies and organizations across the US are, newly, honoring Juneteenth as a paid holiday. IFYC is among those organizations - read our commitment and action steps toward racial equity here. Some leaders are advocating for a federal holiday. Religious institutions are doing new things and elevating longstanding traditions to honor Juneteenth (check out the United Church of Christ, American Jewish Committee, for instance). While in the last couple of years we at IFYC have hosted in-office events to learn, reflect upon and give name to the day, this year we too are honoring the day as a paid holiday. We asked the team and network how they will spend this day and you’ll find a few opportunities and themes below. We hope that however you observe Juneteenth - whether in celebration, protest, artistic creation or rest - that it will be in honor of the ongoing liberation of Black lives and, in James Baldwin’s words, ‘achieving our country.’
- As activist, womanist, author, Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Read, Reflect, Listen & Learn
- Listen from 7-8am central on 1690 AM (WVON) to Rami Nashashibi, Executive Director of Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) and Rev. Otis Moss III (Pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ) in conversation on Juneteenth Liberation Celebration.
- Register to join “Juneteenth 2020: A Faith 2020 anti-racism conversation. On Juneteenth, with the backdrop of a racial pandemic and Trump's first rally since the Coronavirus outbreak (held near historic Black Wall Street in Tulsa OK) we'll convene an important conversation about race, faith and intentional ways forward. Dr. Josef Sorett of Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary will share reflections on "Rituals of Race and Religion in Anti-Black America". They will be joined by Rev. Derrick Harkins, DNC Interfaith Outreach Director; Bishop Carlton Pearson from Tulsa, OK; and Bishop Yvette Flunder, City of Refuge UCC – Oakland.”
- For families with kids, read a play from IFYC former staffer, Idris Goodwin’s “Free Play: Open Source Scripts Toward an Antiracist Tomorrow.” These plays are online at Theatre for Young Audiences/USA and “are designed for children ranging in age from 6 to 14-plus, and include Water Gun Song, about a parent having to explain to a child why a water gun isn’t simply a toy; Nothing Rhymes With Juneteenth, in which a child and parent compose a rap for a school presentation; Act Free, in which three kids wrestle with the definition of freedom; #Matter, a two-hander in which high schoolers debate matters of life and race; and Black Flag, in which two new college dorm-mates are getting along swimmingly until one decides to decorate their room with a little piece of “Southern pride.”
Join the National Museum of African American History and Culture, June 19-20 to:
- “Listen to Lift Every Voice and Sing sung by renowned vocalist Rochelle Rice
- Discover how to trace your ancestors in a workshop presented by the Robert F. Smith Explore Your Family History Center
- Enjoy presentations about the history and significance of Juneteenth
- Hear a tale that celebrates the wisdom of the elders as told by acclaimed storyteller Diane Macklin
- Register to join the Conversation! "Freedom, Justice & Equality" "One Nation Under G-d", Co-led by longtime Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) leader and Board Member Sister Laila Muhammad. 4-6pm central on Zoom
- Join Sweet Honey in the Rock for a virtual concert and conversation at 8 PM eastern. This will be an interactive performance where, “in spite of Covid-19 and continued systemic racial oppression, we stand together as a global community, in spirit and in song, even while apart. Through music, poem, and discussion, we will reflect on our nation’s turbulent racial past and present, while uplifting the dignity and wellbeing of all people.” The performance will stream live from the historic stage at The Lincoln Theater in Washington, DC. Special guests include Bryan Stevenson, Danny Glover, Gina Belafonte, Sonia Sanchez, Aloe Blacc, William Barber III, Kiki Shepard, Jenifer Lewis, Jordan Waré, and Sophia Dawson.
Connect & Act
- Join Faith community led peaceful demonstration of 10,000 in Grant Park, in coalition with 500 diverse religious leaders and organizations across the city (12:00pm central)
- Join Chicago Peace and Equality Juneteenth Rally and Celebration at the South Loop Green Space (6:00pm central)
- June 20, join Rev. William Barber’s call to “Stay Alive, Stay at Home, Organize” with the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on DC (9:00am and 5:00pm central; June 21 at 5:00pm central)
- Support black owned businesses, including local eating establishments
- Attend a Juneteenth Kabbalat Shabbat service
- Enjoy family cook-out and picnic, play with our children
- Celebrate the ongoing work of liberation and pray for peace, health and healing.
If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today.
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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.