Juneteenth is an annual holiday celebrated on the 19th of June to honor the day that the last Black enslaved people in Texas found out that they were free. It is important to note that this day was first recognized on June 19th, 1865 which is two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was declared; this news was delayed due to lack of communication technology and urgency on behalf of the messengers.
Today, celebrations are a combination of remembrance, education, music, and FOOD! In some instances, community members may each bring one dish to contribute to a larger meal. These often include meats like lamb, pork, and beef; which were not available every day, to celebrate the special occasion. In some celebrations, you may find a highlight on red food items- whether it be strawberry pop, watermelon salad, or spicy red sausages, which symbolize the blood and strength of those who were previously enslaved. In other celebrations, you can find an indulgence in traditional Black Southern cuisine, such as collard greens and cornbread. Using recipes which have been passed down across generations brings a special attention to how history can be shared and live on through oral tradition, when reading and writing were forbidden.
Although a recipe may not be written down, watching a loved one cook in the kitchen or calling a community elder to help walk you through the steps are ways the rich knowledge of formerly enslaved Black people has persevered to the present day. This Juneteenth, we can take time to reflect on food as a way to gather community, a means to celebrate strength in diversity, and a vessel through which so much nurturing and knowledge is shared.