This annual celebration of the day in 1865 when news of the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of the Civil War finally reached Texas has come to the consciousness of more white people as a consequence of our society being shaken into awareness by the police murder of George Floyd. African Americans have celebrated Juneteenth since 1866.
Perhaps you’d like to join in the celebration this year, but are unsure whether you should, or how. Here are some options to consider:
Read up on the rich history of Juneteenth. This article from Vox is a good place to start, but if you want something in-depth, try this Library of Congress post that highlights the voices of enslaved persons. To learn what Black people need from white people who want to celebrate, read this bracing itemized list, and pick one!
For a crash course in antiracism, watch a 20-minute summary presentation for the Dominican associates below.
Find local events you can attend by searching Juneteenth and the name of your town in a search engine or Facebook. A Springfield search yielded many exciting options for participation. If you have little experience in Black spaces you might feel awkward or uncomfortable, but that is not a reason not to go! Be humble, observant, and respectful of others at the event. Spend more time listening than talking. Feel what it feels like to be a minority. If you go with family or friends, your common experience will be good ground for honest discussion later about how you felt and where it might lead you to personal transformation.
Springfield, IL Local Juneteenth Events
It’s true that you are not responsible for the existence of institutionalized racial oppression. It’s also true that you, and every other white person in the United States, are responsible to help dismantle it. If you’ve not given much thought to your own white privilege, or you’ve resisted doing so and are ready to change, an excellent resource for you is a book by educator and transformation specialist Kathy Obear, Ed. D. …But I’m Not Racist! Tools for Well-Meaning Whites. It is available as a free download at Dr. Obear’s website. Dr. Obear is currently working with the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) on their own desire to become an antiracist institution.
On June 19, 1865, news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached enslaved peoples in Texas. The purpose of that document has yet to be fully realized. You can help by becoming knowledgeable about Juneteenth and the racist history of our nation, going outside your comfort zone to experience the world of the descendants of slavery, and committing to be the change in your corner of the world. By doing so, you are doing nothing less than responding to the call of the Gospel to assure the full social equality and participation of every citizen, all children of God.
A prayer to celebrate Juneteenth — a light of hope for freedom and justice
The Office of Black Catholics invites all of us to celebrate this day as a reminder of the transformative power of human liberation. We encourage all to spend time with our families, reflecting on the meaning of the day by using this as a day of education about our collective history and taking the time to pray for real change.
We pray, O Lord, for change.
Jesus you revealed God through your wise words and loving deeds,
and we encounter you still today in the faces of those whom society has pushed to the margins.
Guide us, through the love you revealed,
to establish the justice you proclaimed,
that all peoples might dwell in harmony and peace,
united by that one love that binds us to each other, and to you.
And most of all, Lord, change our routine worship and work into genuine encounter with you and our better selves so that our lives will be changed for the good of all.