Written by Makisha Noël 
Graphic by  Brandon Castelo
June 18, 2020

Freedom Day is a celebration of Black liberation and this year, we’re taking it to the next level. Otherwise known as Juneteenth, June 19, 1865 marks the official emancipation from enslavement for Black people in America. This celebration is about unity during a time where we’re socially distancing, strength when we feel there’s no fight left in us, and joy when there’s plenty to be discouraged about.

Rosi Sanchez, an alumni of the Marcus Graham Project (MGP) shares, “Because we are still social distancing, I will be gathering with a group of my multicultural friends reflecting on the history of Juneteenth and we will honor our ancestors who have fought before us and who give us the strength to fight today.”

While you’ll find that many are reflecting on the history this year, Braylond Howard, alumni of MGP as well, is ruminating on his lived experience as a black man in America. Howard says, “Juneteenth is still a fairly new holiday for me—much like most of America. Growing up in Florida, it wasn’t a celebrated, or even visible, holiday; so, this year I’ll celebrate Juneteenth by learning more about its origins, how its celebrations have evolved over the years, as well as reflecting on my own definition of what it means to be “free” as a black man in America today.”

It’s true, Juneteenth hasn’t widely been taught in schools across America, therefore largely leaving the story untold. Not only are we taking education to new heights for our own communities, but we’re also creating a space for white and non-Black people of color to become educated and take actionable steps towards celebrating our Freedom Day long past Juneteenth.

1. Acknowledge your knowledge gap

The reality is that even people in the Black community are learning about the rich tradition of Juneteenth. However, there is sheer exhaustion that comes from constantly explaining and having the burden to be educators of our history. Knowledge is available to all who seek it and acknowledging this being new grounds is a great first step.

2. Refrain from capitalizing off the moment and culture

There’s a saying that goes, “You want our rhythm but not our blues”. During a time where #BlackLivesMatter is becoming much more visible, people and companies feel compelled to hop on the bandwagon to show support for the Black community. However, when the social media hype dies down, the energy isn’t the same. Consistent effort in terms of donating resources, investing time, and continual conversation is the avenue to living in solidarity and not just showing it.

3. Challenge the system or expect a new one to be created

The concept of the Montgomery Bus Boycott has existed in many forms throughout history. The Black Wallstreet, one of the most commercially successful and affluent majority of African-American communities in America, serves an example of Black folks unifying when institutional racism left no choice. Believe it or not, non-Black folks have a voice in the way society treats and responds to people of color. Challenge the broken system among your friend groups, at work, and even in religious settings because all lives matter when Black lives matter.

All in all, we want to see ourselves represented across the spectrum. We’ve lived a long history of Euro-centric lives being the center and the times are evolving. Chris Isaiah, alumn of MGP, shares, “Janaya Khan (they/them pronouns) is a queer, gender-nonconforming, activist, writer, storyteller, and co-found of Black Lives Matter Canada. From the first moment, I saw them on a stage, heard them speak, and met them I have been strengthened to be my full self. When I see them, I see me, which is why I am inspired to be unapologetically Black and Queer.”

Humanity is celebrated when we see more of ourselves long past a Black History Month or a Freedom Day. You can be a part of that difference. Pull up, take a seat, and take a stand on the right side of history. 

Afternoon Agency is officially launching “Afternoons With” on Juneteenth! Bold. Fresh. Avant-garde. We are the culture. Join AfterNoon Agency for our weekly podcast serving the tea on trends shaping the marketing industry, elevating diverse voices, and the keys to making the world more equitable for underrepresented populations. The industry has had all day to get it right, so in this 13th hour, we will not be silent. Tune in for the smoke all summer!

Sponsored by the Marcus Graham Project, our weekly podcast, AfterNoons With is published on Spotify and Apple