Kasey Rhone

Juneteenth is one of my favorite holidays. Always has been. As a Black woman in America, it's important to celebrate the freedom of my ancestors - specifically, because the right to be acknowledged as a whole human was hard-won and we still fight to maintain it today.

As a child growing up in Wichita, Kansas, I loved going to the Juneteenth celebrations at McAdams Park, right across the street from my neighborhood. Celebrating with my neighbors and friends always made for a joyful and exciting day.

You'd probably expect me to be thrilled to see Juneteenth recognized as a federal holiday, but I'm not sure that I am. I am torn about the federal recognition of Juneteenth as a holiday. From Walmart's ill-advised ice cream, to cities hosting celebrations that center on non-Black folks, I miss the Blackness of the celebrations; it was for us and by us. Some events and items being marked for the holiday feel opportunistic.

For those who do not know, Juneteenth celebrates when enslaved people in Texas found out they were freed, two whole years after the Emancipation Proclamation. This is a cultural celebration of joy and freedom. With all that said, non-Black folks may be wondering where they fit into the celebrations or how to celebrate what might feel like a new holiday. The answers are simple: Respectfully and humbly, with the realization that while this is a deeply American holiday, it's not about all Americans.

Here are some ways to celebrate and acknowledge the day while trying to maintain boundaries.

• Learn about the history of the day. Learn why enslaved people in Texas didn't know they had been freed in the years prior. Learn what Black people in America still go through to maintain and hold onto that freedom.

• If it is open to you, check out a local Juneteenth celebration. Celebrate with your Black neighbors if your presence is welcomed there. Support Black-led events. For that matter, as always, support local Black businesses. If they are open, check them out, and make a purchase or have a bite to eat.

• Support nonprofits and grassroots organizations doing the work to support the local Black community.

This Juneteenth, I'll be doing something I've begun doing in recent years: nothing. As a Black woman, I want to honor my ancestors in the heat of June by doing something I'm sure they wished for themselves and their children, and by extension, myself. I'll be doing no labor, relaxing in comfortable spaces, eating food I enjoy, and resting in ways the enslaved couldn't. Sometimes our ancestors' wildest dreams involved something as simple as rest. Happy Juneteenth!

Kasey Rhone is the public programs and engagement manager at Ahha Tulsa.

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