Today’s edition of Pagan Voices was written by guest contributor, Amanda Nicole “Amethyst” Tarver Turner and is a spotlight on Pagans of color within our community on the meaning and importance of Juneteenth.
ATLANTA – Juneteenth, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day; Known by several names June 19 is the day that in 1865 the last of the slaves located in Texas learned of the Emancipation Proclamation that had been issued on January 1, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln. The Emancipation Proclamation declared that all slaves were free.
While slaves and their descendants have been celebrating Juneteenth since 1866, Texas was the first state to acknowledge it as a state holiday in 1980. As of today only 3; Hawaii, North Dakota, and South Dakota do not acknowledge Juneteenth. Juneteenth is also celebrated in Coahuila, Mexico by the Mascogos, who are the descendants of Black Seminoles.
Sadly, most do not know this holiday exists and it is rarely spoken of in history classes. Churches, community organizations, and some local governments usually host celebrations that include festivities such as parades, contests, and races. Readings and songs are often done by children and Family reunions are common around this time. Watermelon and red soda are staples along with traditional soul food.
With many Blacks/African- Americans returning to their ancestral spiritual roots, Juneteenth is experiencing a revival and with the latest protests, there has been a call to boycott Independence Day by Blacks/African- Americans in favor of Juneteenth. The movement is gaining traction and with it the much-needed history lesson.
So how will you celebrate? Here is what 3 people had to say.
Jara Lamont identifies as Black/African-American and as a Southern Hoodooist.
Catherine “Mother Jaguar” Adunni identifies as African-American and a Divine Spiritual Being.
Monroe Rodriguez identifies as a Multiracial African Dominant and a Spiritual and Priest (African based dominant)
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What does Juneteenth mean to you?
Lamont: It means the start of freedom for my people! A monumental day for my ancestors!
Mother Jaguar: Juneteenth to me is a day to be culturally observed and celebrated in honor of my Ancestors liberation from more than 400 years of slavery.
Rodriguez: Freedom day is the day when the last of the plantation slaves became free. My family is from Virginia and the Carolinas but we were mostly free before then. I believe even an ancestor owned slaves. But I have ancestors that were domestic slaves in Africa too.
Slavery is such a hard subject to talk about because it showed the very worst of humanity for black, indigenous, mixed, Asian, Arab, and European people. European slavery was the worst and the United States sometimes wins the award for the most horror stories. It is a generational curse on the family that extends into other realms but we still try to survive, continue to thrive while still attempting to connect to the homelands that were lost.
People from this country were enslaved too, moved, colonized and it seems all of us in the diaspora have a collective identity issue that every few years, one group or another tries to illuminate for us in a pan-African type of way but it never works. We are all different and had different stories. We are not one thing. The path of discovery is individual and ancestor led.
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Are you celebrating Juneteenth? If so, how will you be celebrating?
Lamont: I will celebrate to the best of my ability, given that I’m away from my family.
I will have a solo dinner and time with my ancestors. I will celebrate, as I do every day, by learning more about our history and sharing it!
Mother Jaguar: Yes, I definitely celebrate this day! This year I will be attending Sugar Hills Juneteenth festival and ending with an ancestral honoring ceremony that extends into the early morning with live songs/music and dancing.
Rodriguez: Yes, to a certain extent. I will celebrate with family and ancestor veneration.
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Is Juneteenth recognized as a holiday in your location? If not would you like to see it recognized there?
Lamont: To my knowledge, it’s not seen as a holiday in Georgia. I would love to see Juneteenth recognized as a holiday.
[Juneteenth is recognized in Georgia, however, it is not widely known.]
Mother Jaguar: Yes it is recognized in Georgia.
Rodriguez: In my area, no, but Philadelphia as a whole, yes. Yes, I would like to see it recognized. I have seen similar celebrated in Brazil.
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Do you celebrate Independence day as well? Why or Why not?
Lamont: I use to before I found out about Juneteenth. Now I feel that it is not right and disrespectful to my ancestors.
Mother Jaguar: I do not celebrate the 4th of July. This day to me symbolizes the Independence Day of our colonizers for the oppression of my Ancestors.
Rodriguez: Only in the cookout barbecue way to spend with family if invited but I do not participate in the other meanings because this country was made via slavery, theft, and genocide.
The common emphasis seems to be honoring ancestors. How can you celebrate Juneteenth? While food, drinks, and other festivities are occurring across the nation the important thing is to learn the history and honor those who came before us.
Amanda Nicole “Amethyst” Tarver Turner is an educator, Pagan minister, rootworker, spiritual adviser, life coach, end-of-life doula, and reiki/chakra healer. She was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, and currently resides with her 2 boys and her nesting partner in East Atlanta. She runs a botanica, Our Father’s House, Our Mother’s Cabinets in Forest Park, and is currently working on her first solo book.