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Michigan Tech to host Juneteenth celebration

On Wednesday, June 19, a Juneteenth Celebration hosted by Residence Education Housing Services and Student Leadership and Involvement will be held from 1-3 p.m. in front of the Douglass Houghton Hall dorm building on Michigan Tech’s Campus. In the past, the event has featured food, drinks, outdoor games, and a trivia contest with prizes for winners. 

Juneteenth is officially known as Juneteenth National Independence Day.

It became a national holiday in 2021, after President Biden signed a bill making it the eleventh American federal holiday. Juneteenth is a day of remembrance of the end of slavery in Galveston, Texas.

News of the Emancipation Proclamation reached the southern town two years after the Proclamation was issued in 1863. Word of the Confederates’ defeat spread across the South, making its way to Galveston. Troops arrived in 1865 to take control of Texas and make sure all of its enslaved people were freed. Juneteenth is oftentimes considered to be the effective end of slavery. 

Juneteenth originally began as a regionally celebrated holiday in Texas. As Black Americans moved out of the South and spread across America, they brought the holiday with them.

It rose to prominence nationally during the Civil Rights Movement in the ’60s, and gained more recognition during the Black Power movement. 

Angela Tate, Curator of African American Women’s History at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, said in an interview with the museum that, “Juneteenth is a time to reflect. What does it mean to really celebrate our freedom? What does it mean to be free in moments where freedom is conditional, and freedom is always a challenge? Juneteenth is a moment to think about freedom being conditional freedom and it is something that we must continuously strive for.” 

Along with reflection and celebration, strawberry cake often makes an appearance at Juneteenth gatherings, such as the one on Michigan Tech’s campus.

According to a PBS interview with food historian Michael Twitty, “the tradition of eating red foods likely came from the enslaved Yoruba and Kongo people brought to Texas in the 19th century. The color red can represent power, sacrifice, and transformation in both of those cultures.” Red velvet cake, watermelon, and barbecue are also popular dishes at Juneteenth celebrations. Along with Twitty’s theory, red foods can represent African Americans’ resilience in their journey to freedom. Strawberry soda is usually served, as well. This is said to be a symbol of the blood shed by slaves, and is a salute to their sacrifices that led to freedom. 

In celebration of this year’s Juneteenth, President Biden hosted a concert at the White House, emceed by comedian and actor Roy Wood, Jr., and featuring singers Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle, along with rapper Doug E. Fresh. In a speech at the event, Biden said, “Black history is American history. The day reminds us that we have a helluva lot more work to do. Let’s keep marching, Let’s keep the faith.” 

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