Juneteenth (“June” plus “nineteenth”) is a day that marked the beginning of the journey towards justice, accountability, and reconciliation in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas. That day he informed enslaved African-Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. This announcement gave voice to the written words of the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued more than two and a half years earlier in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln.
Juneteenth & Our Baptism Promises
Juneteenth is a day for followers of Jesus to be reminded of their Baptismal Covenant to “strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.” It is a day for churches and faith communities to gather together to learn, pray, and continue the work of justice and reconciliation. A day such as this one provides an excellent opportunity for transformation. We must take advantage of the moment we are in to actively listen through honest and transparent dialogues that strengthen our faith and our connections to one another.
This past year has taught us that creativity and teamwork are all we need to worship and be in community. Planning a virtual Juneteenth celebration through zoom or any other platform can be accomplished. Use your creativity, available resources and find others willing to help.
Planning a Virtual Juneteenth Celebration: 5 Tips
1. Find your Team
Invite members of the church or community, 5 to 6 people, to help plan the event and assign specific roles. These include managing the technology (zoom, live streaming, cameras, and graphics display), contacting speakers and musicians, and providing them with all the necessary information before the event. Use social media to promote the event. Create flyers or a promotional video and share them broadly.
2. Do your Research
On the day of the event, have a planning team member briefly share what Juneteenth is and why it is essential to remember and celebrate it. Learning about the day and its importance in American History is crucial; a simple online search will provide more than enough information and resources: articles, photos, and examples of how others have celebrated this holiday in the past.
3. Music and Prayer
Music and prayer are and have been fundamental aspects of the African American experience. In your celebration, integrate negro spirituals, songs, or hymns highlighting African American culture and the Black Church. Invite a Black musician or a local African American choir to perform. For the prayers, ask a diverse group of young people to write prayers about the meaning of freedom and justice and invite them to read them on the day of the event.
4. Personal Stories
Invite a person of color in your community to share how they or their family celebrate this day, a special memory or tradition, and what it means to them. Another option is inviting a community leader who is actively involved in racial justice efforts to speak about their work and ways others can engage. Invite those participating in taking a moment to reflect on what actions they will take to join in this work.
5. Virtual Coffee Hour
Immediately after the event or a few days later, plan for a time of dialogue and reflection. Create small groups and have someone as the facilitator prepared with questions if people need guidance to start the conversation and another as the timekeeper. After a few minutes in the small groups, come back together and open the space to share some of the main themes or questions that came up in discussion.
Prayer, worship, story sharing, and the desire to be in community are the necessary components for churches and other faith communities to celebrate Juneteenth. Juneteenth is more than just a historical day it is an opportunity for transformation and connection. Now more than ever, we must come together on this day that celebrates freedom and walk on the path of justice, accountability, and reconciliation. We must use the opportunity to lift up and join the voices of those who shout for equality and justice for ALL letting the Holy Spirit guide us in this journey to become beloved community.