Juneteenth a day to mark ‘what’s going on now, where we’ve been, and where we plan to go’

Monitor staff
Published: 6/19/2020 9:57:39 AM

In the midst of nationwide protests over racial injustice and police brutality following the death of George Floyd during an arrest by Minneapolis police, “Juneteenth,” the annual celebration of the final emancipation of enslaved African Americans on June 19, 1865, has taken on a special significance. 

“Juneteenth itself is suddenly being re-awoken in everyone’s consciousness,” said JerriAnne Boggis, the executive director of the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire. The protests, along with the backlash against President Donald Trump’s plan to host his first rally in months on June 19 in Tulsa, have increased attention on the holiday. 

But to Boggis, the increased attention doesn’t change what Juneteenth stands for: a celebration of African American history and culture.

“No matter what we do, current issues will always come up,” she said. “The important thing is to look at our history not through this microscopic lens but as a whole complete history: What’s going on now, where we’ve been, and where we plan to go.” 

Last year, Governor Chris Sununu officially declared Juneteenth a state holiday. But in Portsmouth, the Black Heritage Trail has been holding celebrations for decades. The date June 19 was the day that United States General Gordon Granger marched into Galveston, Texas to officially declare emancipation for African Americans who were still enslaved, two years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. 

This year, the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire is hosting four events to celebrate Juneteenth, with a theme of food and cuisine. 

“The whole idea of soul food was making something out of nothing,” Boggis said. Enslaved African Americans created this genre of food for survival, out of the low-quality rations they were given, and now it is famous around the world. 

To celebrate the ingenuity and creativity of black food and music, organizers planned a live African drumming event, a soul food cooking demonstration, a virtual concert of black music, and a panel discussion of the history and science of soul food. 

“No matter what has happened, I think using the theme of food and music can tell the story (of African American history) to not only celebrate, but to turn a real critical lens on issues that were happening then, and which are still happening today,” Boggis said. 

In Manchester, Juneteenth celebrations will include a lineup of poetry, hip-hop  music and food, as well as free COVID-19 testing and voter registration. 

A Juneteenth rally in Keene will join a national “6.19 Day of Action” to demand a defunding the police, investment in black communities and calling for Donald Trump to resign. 

Additionally, NextGen New Hampshire will be partnering with Dartmouth College’s Delta Sigma Theta sorority to host a discussion of the history of Juneteenth, black sororities and fraternities, and the experiences of black women at a predominantly white institution. 

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