Jun 17, 2022 - News

How to celebrate Juneteenth in D.C.

Illustration of the Juneteenth and American flags in a stand.  
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Juneteenth has gotten a lot more national attention since becoming a federal holiday in 2021, but Washingtonians were celebrating the day long before George Floyd’s murder.

History lesson: The Anacostia Community Museum has hosted Juneteenth events as early as 1989. Additionally, some of D.C.’s Texas transplants can be credited for bringing their Juneteenth traditions to the District. 

What they’re saying: Laquan Austion, founder of D.C.-based The Juneteenth Foundation, says people of all races should view June 19 as an American holiday — not one just for Black people. 

  • “Think about July 4th,” Austion tells Axios. “We celebrate that day for American independence. Juneteenth represents our independence from ourselves. Now we all have the ability to pursue the Founding Fathers' vision.” 
  • The group hosts a celebration for the holiday and was founded in 2020 to build awareness around Juneteenth and promote commemoration of it as an American holiday. 

How to celebrate: Here are Austion's tips for recognizing Juneteenth:

  • Learn the history: This is a moment to be introspective and ask, “Why were people still enslaved in 1865? Why didn’t they get the information in Galveston?” he says.
  • Scholarships: He encourages people to donate to historically Black colleges and universities. 
  • DEI: Push your company on diversity, equity, and inclusion policies and ask them to share their specific DEI plans. 
  • Celebrate mindfully: Austion said it’s important to recognize that for some people, this is a “moment of solace and mourning.” But still, people should get out in their communities, go to events, and use this as an “opportunity to learn and hear.” 

On being an ally: “Definitely go out, be an ally, be an asset,” Austion says. “But don’t be tone-deaf and try to hijack it as your own. Don’t try to commercialize it.”

There will be many ways this weekend to observe the holiday locally

  • We’re eyeing Alexandria’s celebration, which will include the re-opening of the Freedom House Museum. It’s dedicated to honoring the lives of free and enslaved Black people who lived and were trafficked through Alexandria.
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