My Juneteenth

As a 19-year-old African American male, this past June was the first time that I celebrated Juneteenth. Recently, June 19, was officially declared a federal holiday.

I celebrated the day while attending the 15th annual Philadelphia Juneteenth Festival at the historic Johnson House in Germantown. The festival included many shops, food vendors, canvas clothing, art, and so much more all owned and operated by Blacks. 

One of the things that stood out to me at the festival, was that many of the vendors did not only engage with each other about their respective services but also purchased and advertised each other’s products on social media. It was exciting to see and an ideal way of promoting local Black businesses in the Philadelphia area.

Those who were in attendance for the festival seemed so invested in what each vendor, performer, and attendee was doing to promote growth in the Black community. This made me proud to see such active support for people who are the same shade as me.

Besides being with my family for family gatherings and other holidays, this was the first time where I felt like I could truly be unapologetically Black around my peers, and have a sense of what it feels like to be invested in my own culture. I loved seeing Blacks at the festival, but I enjoyed seeing people of other ethnicities participating in the event as well. It showed me that people outside of Black culture are actively interested in learning the history of Juneteenth and want to help solidify the importance of the holiday. 

From attending the festival, I learned that in order to create and preserve Black culture in this country, we have to honor our ancestors by understanding where exactly they came from and when they were liberated, because Juneteenth for one person may not be the same for someone else who is Black. The challenge, I think, now is to further pass along the history and significance of Juneteenth to future generations. 

Philadelphia is such a melting pot of ideas and creeds and is the perfect place to display the historical significance of Juneteenth to the world.

Article written by Thomas Dyer on behalf of Global Philadelphia Association