Some holidays are for genuine celebration and reflection, not consumerism.
When Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established I thought, oh, no, here we go again: Another consumer holiday; a day off to rest, relax and shop.
But instead the holiday has become one of introspection, of learning and to some who seize the extra day off, an extended weekend that allows more time for reflection. The holiday celebrating Dr. King has empowered conversations in schools and around dinner tables; it’s powered modern civil rights movements; it’s inspired us to all know that even though we are just one person, we can make a difference.
Juneteenth is the name given to the day slavery actually ended: June 19, 1865. While Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation years before, not all slave owners bothered to share the news with the men and women who worked for them. Enslaved people were isolated, so it was easy to keep this information from them. The Civil War, too, had lingered on in the form of small, isolated rebellions after General Robert E. Lee surrendered — it was very much the status quo in some parts of the South.
It wasn’t until Union Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas with 2,000 federal troops on June 19, 1865 that true emancipation could finally be achieved. On that day, Black Americans were finally endowed some of the rights and ideals upon which the founding fathers had built the United States of America. It would take years to endow Black Americans a full suite of rights — we’re still unwriting the internalized biases that have forced Black communities onto the back foot for centuries — but it was a tangible step in securing genuine personhood for a group that had been so brutally denied it.
Juneteenth celebrations began the very next year and have continued ever since, often in predominately Black neighborhoods and in a variety of ways: barbecues, parades, and even just family get-togethers. Now, it’s become a federal holiday.
What Are You Doing This Year? I’m Planning to Listen and Learn
This year on Juneteenth I plan to learn. To watch my media feeds and see how my Black friends celebrate. To reflect on being hamstrung by privilege and my lack of understanding of the holiday and what it truly means. To think about the misguided definitions of freedom and equality in our country and how we can correct the course.
All this is central to our own DNA. I won’t pretend to understand what it feels like to be among the ignored and overlooked, but I do try, and do believe that with work, I can understand. I can appreciate being underrepresented, an outsider, underestimated.
Empower Others… and Go Shopping Later
That is why we are here, to empower every woman who dreams of a career in automotive, every girl who wants to race, every female who wants to feel equal in the place she decides to be. As we grow, together, we raise each other up. So I plan to spend my day learning how to do that. And I hope you will, too. You can always shop tomorrow.