Thursday, July 4, 1776, marks the day where America first celebrated its independence. In 1941 it was declared a federal holiday. Since then, the Fourth of July has been a day where families gather to celebrate, laborers across the nation are given the day off from work for observance, and fireworks are sent soaring through the air to commemorate the historic day. However, on this day in the story, as told by Americans, independence was not declared for all.
Black Americans, Africans, people of color were building a nation with their bare hands, blood, sweat, souls, and tears against their will. Slavery had not been abolished, yet a celebration of freedom was underway. In the wake of recent events and civil unrest, many African-Americans decided to celebrate Juneteenth; however, many did not and plan to use July 4 to visit family, travel, barbecue, and of course, set off fireworks.
As people of color gear up to consciously or subconsciously celebrate, bystanders and onlookers should be respectful of others’ decisions. Here’s why. Old and uninformed habits are hard to break. Many people of color have celebrated this day with family and friends for decades because it’s a day given freely. Hence, people tend to plan vacations and family gatherings on or around this date. It’s also a day where several events occur; stores have everything on sale, and it’s one of the few holidays of summer. While these celebrations innocently took place, I believe that this day was acknowledged not to reminisce on the adopting of Declaration of Independence for blacks, but simply used to enjoy favorite summer past times.
If you find that your neighbors, friends, or family members decide to break out the grill, gather, or travel doesn’t pass judgment on them. This doesn’t mean they’re celebrating the holiday; it merely means they are utilizing their free time how they see fit. And if they are celebrating this date, it’s their choice to do so. If you aren’t prepared to respect their decision or educate them thoroughly on its history concerning black people, then move forward with your boycotting plans and leave them be.
For those who have decided against acknowledging July 4 because your day of freedom has already passed, here are some things you can do to change the narrative of how black independence should be celebrated on a day where our forefathers cried and died while still in bondage.
- Support black businesses on this day. There was an outpouring of support for the black dollar on Juneteenth, why not do the same thing every year on the Fourth of July so these businesses can continue to thrive.
- Educate yourself on what this date meant for enslaved blacks.
- Petition to have celebrations acknowledging Juneteenth nationally televised.
- Reiterate the principles of Juneteenth, reflection, rebuilding, reconnecting planning for the future.
Let’s think about it. In the early days of Juneteenth celebrations, newly freed blacks used the day to locate and gather with family members to celebrate. Blacks do this more often than not on any occasion. Still, moving forward, if we want to change historical celebrations, it’s imperative to educate our families with the meanings behind each and make informed decisions about how to or how not to celebrate while simultaneously respecting the choices of others.
Contributing writer, Liz Lampkin is an author, speaker, and lifestyle writer. You can find her on social media @Lizlampkin.