As the world starts to wake up to the B.S. Black Americans have had to deal with since being forced to come here, it’s nice to see Juneteenth finally getting the recognition it deserves. I was shocked to learn how many of my friends had no idea this holiday existed let alone what it was.
Let’s go back to the Civil War. Fortunately for Black people, the North won and Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. However, Black slaves in Texas didn’t realize they were free until June 19, 1865 – over two years after the law had passed. General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas and before he could finish reading the proclamation, Black slaves were packing up and heading out. This later became known as “The Great Scatter.” We saw a huge migration of Blacks to northern states where they thought they’d have a better life far away from the traumatic south. Black Americans who chose to stay in Texas, decided to turn the day into a celebration. Praising God for their freedom, singing, dancing, eating and spending the day and night laughing and telling stories.
Now that you know what Juneteenth is let’s get you ready to celebrate in style. First, turn on some Beyoncé – Texas is such a giving state. First Juneteenth then Beyoncé…for a state that gets it wrong a lot (like Governor Abbott’s early re-opening and not electing Beto) at least we delivered on these two.
Once you’re jamming to Queen B, let’s start whipping up some grub. Most Black traditions center around food and this holiday is no exception. Here’s what’s on the menu at my house this Friday.
The Aunt Jemima brand is rooted in racism so that’s cancelled, but that doesn’t mean you have to go without your pancake or waffle fix. Check out VickyCakes or Blanket Pancakes & Syrup. These Black owned pancake and waffle mix companies’ products will be a hit with your family when they sit down for the most important meal of the day. Whip up some fried chicken wings to go on top and you’ve got your very own Chicken and Waffles breakfast!
Do you know why chicken is important in Black kitchens? It goes back to slavery. Black slaves weren’t allowed to have much, but their masters would sometimes let them keep chickens. Mixing seasonings that were familiar to them from West Africa, slaves learned how to turn a bland meat into a southern dining delight. Once slave masters caught on, they would often take the best pieces of meat for themselves leaving slaves with just the wings. Like always, Black Americans pushed past this poor treatment and turned chicken wings into a dining experience that’s still enjoyed today.
Fried catfish, candied yams, green beans with potatoes and cornbread.
So much of the food Black Americans prepare and cook have origins rooted either in West Africa or in slavery. Our lunch menu is no exception. Living close to the gulf, fish was a cheap food masters often gave their slaves along with cornmeal. Black Americans would season the fish and batter it with the cornmeal. Throw it in a hot skillet and that’s how fried catfish became a staple – especially in Black southern homes. Yams were brought over from Africa and prepared to be either sweet or savory depending on the rest of the meal. Green beans and potatoes were blended to make the beans stick to the bones longer since slaves received such small portions.
Cornbread is eaten anytime of the day or night. Warm a little milk in a bowl and drop a slice of cornbread in it – drizzle it with honey and breakfast is served! My toddler asks for “co-bread” as a snack so I always have a pan ready to go! Put on a big pot of beans or potatoes and top it off with a little cornbread? You’re eating good now, honey bun!
BBQ ribs, baked beans and coleslaw. Ribs were considered one of the least desirable pieces of meat during slavery. Black Americans created sauces to help fill their stomachs since there wasn’t always as much meat on the bones. Beans have always been a staple in poor or disadvantaged American homes. Slaves would mix the rib sauce with other West African spices to give them a little kick.
Desserts are HUGE in Black culture. One recipe that is near and dear to my heart is Teacakes! I even gave them as favors at my wedding in 2017. Guests were going around the reception tables looking for extras! Don’t let the name fool you – no icing or fluffy cake here – it’s more like a cookie. What does it taste like? A snickerdoodle and sugar cookie wrapped in love. My family’s teacakes recipe can be traced back before Juneteenth was a thing! It’s been passed down through the generations verbally – I don’t believe it’s ever been written down! Purchase teacakes for your family by visiting SugarToot’s Teacakes. Here you can learn more about my family’s teacakes recipe and how your purchase can help babies in need.
Now that we have our menu for the day, let’s get into celebrations. In our home, we always say “we laugh to keep from crying.” We don’t spend Juneteenth reminiscing on the hard times but focusing on how our race and culture has endured, evolved and most importantly thrived despite the challenges we have and still face in this country. However, for those of you who are celebrating Juneteenth for the first time, consider spending the day learning more about Black history and how we’ve shaped the country you call home. You’d be surprised how much influence the Black community has in your world. Your ironing board, home security system, blood banks, clothes dryer, lawn mowers and sprinklers, the pacemaker keeping your racist uncle alive and so much more – all invented by Black people.
One does not simply wake up on Juneteenth and put on anything. This is Black America’s Independence Day! For centuries Black Americans were told what they could and could not wear, so Juneteenth fashion is a serious matter. Most years I wear a Juneteenth t-shirt sporting the holiday’s flag – yep! Juneteenth has its own flag! If I’m wanting to be a little more swagged out, I’ll wear native African wear as a nod to my African heritage. Sure, I’ve never stepped foot on the continent but that doesn’t mean I can’t fully embody my Nubian queen DNA that’s running through my veins.
So now, you’ve got the jams, the food, the activities, and the outfits set. I’d say you and your family are ready to celebrate this important holiday in style. Welcome to the cookout my newly woke friends! We’ve been waiting for you.