Two days until Juneteenth rolls around: June 19. If you're new to celebrating it, then there's cause for jubilation as it commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. So, it used to be more "functional" in that black leaders and good Samaritans instructed newly freed slaves about their rights and entitlements as citizens. Believe it or not, it's roots are in Texas and as they scattered to other states it evolved into different observances in different communities with food, singing, games, parades, and all kinds of events.
image by Callie Richmond
So if your community doesn't have it's own festival, you can DYI and read the Emancipation Proclamation aloud, sing "We Shall Overcome" & "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," recite Maya Angelous's poems, celebrate with family reunions, trace your ancestry, get wild with rodeos, and other events as well.
Food and eating are my focal points of any celebration and as you might have guessed, Juneteenth has several particular to its observance.
Barbecue features prominently and is recognized by culinary scholars as originating from slave cuisine. The Juneteenth celebrations in Manhattan, Kansas function as a culinary tourist event given the popularity and reputation of pitmasters producing fare for the jubilation. And street vendors aka food trucks are popular at Juneteenth celebrations in Illinois according to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food & Drink in America (1st ed). Nearly a decade ago a celebration in Hartford, CT offered a Marcus Garvey salad, named so because it mixed red, green, and black beans mirroring the colors of the nationalist flag.
Red is symbolic, but I can't find how or why; I've searched the library databases. Anyone know? Care to guess? A pop o'er to Wikipedia reveals the color's symbolism as: danger, sacrifice, passion, fire, beauty, blood, anger...and happiness in some cultures. The entry didn't list strength. So red foods and drinks are de rigueur. Strawberry soda pop, red velvet cake, red beans and rice, strawberry pie, etc.
So, I'm breaking it down: Your Juneteenth menu, four basics, and then add a few extras--collard greens, skillet cornbread, cole slaw, maybe some mac n cheese?-- thus making it nutritionally sound and you'll be all set.
- Red Beans
- Red Velvet Cake
- Strawberry Soda pop
You're all set for Juneteenth.
For more information, and, especially to find a Juneteenth celebration happening near you, visit Juneteenth Worldwide Celebration. Or check your local newspaper or tabloid. I found a few yummy looking recipes at Cinnamon Hearts, so you could visit there for smothered chicken, red beans, and a sweet potato custard recipe, among others. Actually you may have better luck searching twitter. Maybe next year there will be a Juneteenth celebration in my community. I'd like to help make that happen. And someday perhaps there will be a national Juneteenth holiday.