I feel the more we celebrate, the better our quality of life. And there are two holidays worth taking time out for this week. Today, June 19th is Juneteenth, and Tuesday, June 21st is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. I think it’s appropriate that Juneteenth falls so close to the summer solstice, because both symbolize a certain abundance of light.
Juneteenth is a celebration of the emancipation of African American slaves. Throughout the Civil War, many slaveholders moved to remote areas to escape the fighting and hold onto their slaves. When Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863, nothing changed where it wasn’t enforced. This was especially the case in Texas, where there were still a quarter million slaves in 1865, even after General Lee surrendered the Confederacy.
On June 19th, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger presented Texas with a proclamation that read, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”
Although the enforcement of the law took years, and there’s still plenty of work ahead of us, June 19th became a day of celebration. Known as Juneteenth, it’s the longest standing African American holiday. The abolition of slavery was like clearing a dark cloud that had long hung over the country. It was the beginning of allowing African Americans to be their own people and freely shine their light.
There’s no way to undo the suffering caused by slavery and its aftermath of discrimination and systemic oppression, but one step in the right direction – especially for White people – is to recognize how much this country has benefited from the presence of African Americans. Just when the light of the sun is at its peak, we have the opportunity on Juneteenth (and always) to celebrate the light that’s symbolic of the African American soul, which has persevered through unimaginable violence and injustice, and evolved into an incredible cultural identity.
Despite comprising just 13% of our population, African Americans have had a disproportionately significant influence on the United States. From music to art to cuisine to literature to science to leadership to religion and more, it’s all around us.
So, let’s celebrate the light this week.
☀️ Bask in the sun. Try this simple “solar energy” meditation: Inhale for a count of 4 while imagining you’re absorbing the sun through your pores, deep into your body. Hold your breath for a count of 4 while imagining the solar energy working its way into all your cells and charging all your atoms. Exhale for a count of 4 while imagining you’re beaming the sunlight out of every pore. Hold (with empty lungs) for a count of 4 while basking in your own glow around you. Then repeat.
☀️ Open your heart and shine your light into every environment you find yourself in.
☀️ Make a conscious choice to see the light in everyone you encounter.
☀️ Enjoy the contributions of African American writers, musicians, chefs, comedians, and influencers.
☀️ Whatever your race, consider how you’ve benefited from the influence of courageous and visionary African Americans, then take some action to honor this light and support our work toward true equity.