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Helping Kids Understand and Celebrate Juneteenth

Preface: This blog is written by a white woman with three white children. It is intended to help support other parents who want to raise their hand to foster a more inclusive future for all of our children. 🙋🏽‍♀️

A parent's guide to raising empathetic and compassionate human beings.
Helping Kids Understand Juneteenth and Celebrate it

Hey there, fellow Progressive Parents! Explaining privilege and racial inequity is a tough (but very necessary) topic to approach with children. Today, we're going to embark on an exciting journey to learn about Juneteenth, a significant holiday in American history that marks a major milestone on our ongoing path to racial equity. This blog will equip you with some knowledge and tips to inform your children, show respect for the holiday, support your friends who celebrate it, and discover creative ways to celebrate as privileged white folks.

Below is intended for you to read directly to or with your kids. The links can even be explored together. The "Additional Parental Notes" can be read on your own and used as you see fit.

Juneteenth: A Kids Version...✊🏼✊🏽✊🏾✊🏿

Juneteenth Roots

Imagine this: On January 1, 1863, President Abe Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation to end enslavement. The new law basically made a promise to all enslaved people in this country that they would no longer be treated like property and would begin having some of the freedoms that others in the United States already had. People are the ones that enforce laws, and some people decided to break that promise. As a result, it took over TWO YEARS for the law to come into effect in all the states. Texas was one of the last places to comply with the law (that means to do what the law says).

Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19th, marks the day in 1865 when news of emancipation finally reached enslaved Black Folks in Galveston, Texas. It’s a major milestone in our country’s history and a great time to celebrate the resilience of an entire community and think about ways we can further racial equity! And yet, it is just a stepping stone on our path to racial equity.

Why Was it Just a Stepping Stone? ⛰

Protesters march in support of equal rights during the Civil Rights movement.
Protesters march in support of Civil Rights.

After the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and in full effect, there was still a thing called segregation. Sometimes you will hear segregation referred to as “Jim Crow Laws.” These were crazy laws that meant black people and white people couldn’t utilize the same spaces or have the same privileges. This meant black folks had to use different (and not as nice, clean, functional, or accessible) bathrooms, water fountains, restaurants, transportation, schools and more. This went on for another 100 years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed to end segregation. But just like with the other law, not everyone followed it. Many people had to fight for freedom through peaceful protest (see the image above), the law, and more. Some of those people and groups that you can do further research and googling on are: Ruby Bridges, Rosa Parks (pictured below), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Freedom Riders, The Black Panthers, The Greensboro Four, and countless others. There were also white allies that fought for racial equity such as Virginia Foster Durr, J. Waties Waring, David Dogged, Viola Liuzzo, Anne McCarty Braden, Herbert R. Kohl, and other everyday people like YOU. That’s right, YOU can be an Ally too!

Photograph shows Rosa Parks, one of the speakers at a rally near the Washington Monument, Washington D.C. on June 19, 1968 held as part of the Poor People's Campaign. (Source: Washington Post, June 20, 1986)
Rosa Parks speaks at the Poor Peoples March on Washington (1968)

Even today, we are still fighting racial inequity. The Black Lives Matter movement is bringing to light some of the many injustices within our law enforcement and justice systems. Together, we can work to create more equity in the world. Sometimes that looks like something as simple as speaking up for a friend who is being interrupted repeatedly or bullied, or treated differently because of the color of their skin, the way that they talk, or the way they look. And this is something YOU can do to be an Advocate or an Ally.

Additional Parental Notes...

Digging a Little Deeper into our History 📚

Kids are naturally curious, so let's channel their inner detectives and enlighten them about Juneteenth. Storytime, anyone? Gather the little ones around and share the stories of brave abolitionists (check out some on Epic that you can read RIGHT NOW!), resilient leaders, and the journey toward freedom. You can even include interactive activities like crafts to make learning fun and engaging.

Emphasize Respect and Empathy 😌

Respect is key, and Juneteenth is no exception. Engage your children in discussions about racial equality, the importance of empathy, and the ongoing fight against discrimination. Encourage them to listen and learn from diverse perspectives, cultivating a sense of understanding and compassion. Ask them how it feels to have a promise broken and how they think we could work to repair some of the damage caused by years of enslavement against an entire group of peoples.

Ask Your Kids About Their Feelings 🙁😁😡

Ask your kids about their feelings and how they think others may feel. Ask them what they think about Juneteenth and how it makes them feel that we’ve made the progress we have. Ask them how they feel about how far we still have to go. Validate their feelings and then guide when necessary (Sometimes that looks like “I can completely see how you would feel that way. Sometimes I feel that way and I also consider…). Let them know that it’s ok to have mixed feelings. We can be happy for the progress our nation has made and still be sad, frustrated, or angry that we still have major inequity in our country. Humans are complex individuals, and we can have many different feelings at once.

Support Friends Who Celebrate and Encourage Others to Celebrate 🙌🏾🙌🏽

Reach out to friends who celebrate Juneteenth and wish them a Happy Juneteenth. This doesn’t just mean reaching out to our black friends. It’s a day for all to celebrate some of the progress we have made as a nation in the last 150+ years so wish EVERYONE a Happy Juneteenth! And it’s not something we can just celebrate on one day. We should be celebrating throughout the year with our actions. Volunteering with organizations dedicated to racial justice are great ways to show support. Plus, it's a chance to make new friends and build bridges across communities while teaching our kids the importance of standing together as humans for a better tomorrow.

Doing More to Honor Juneteenth 🙏🏽

As white individuals, we must acknowledge our privilege while honoring Juneteenth. Let's make it a day of reflection and commitment to dismantling systemic racism. Donate to organizations fighting for racial equality or educate ourselves on the history of racial injustice. We can also support Black-owned businesses or amplify Black voices by sharing their stories on social media. You can even engage in peaceful protests to amplify the voices of marginalized peoples.

Wear the message! Wear messages of support and amplification of marginalized peoples. Don't stand for acts of racism and bigotry when you come across them. Let people know that We Are Better Than This!

Today is a great day to set a date today to go with your kids to the nearest Civil Rights Museum. We have Roots 101 in Louisville, KY. We have also been to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN, and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, GA. And once again, these are things we should be doing ALL YEAR LONG!

YOU Can Celebrate Too! 🎉

Who said learning and celebration can't be a blast? Get ready for some fun ideas! Organize a backyard cookout or picnic with friends. Explore books, movies, or music by Black artists and hold a family discussion. Creating art or crafts that highlight the significance of Juneteenth and the many ways Black Culture IS American culture can also be a fantastic way to celebrate while fostering creativity.

You're now armed with a little more knowledge, respect, and exciting ways to celebrate Juneteenth with your children. Remember, Juneteenth is a time to understand the past, celebrate progress, and commit to a future of equity. Let's support our friends, listen to diverse voices, and show love, not just on Juneteenth but every day. Together, we can build a more inclusive and vibrant world!

So, grab your kiddos, embrace the spirit of Juneteenth, and let the celebration begin! Happy Juneteenth, everyone!

*Disclaimer: This blog aims to provide guidance with respect and fun, but it's important to approach these topics with sensitivity and continued learning. Also. I am human. If you feel I’ve misspoken or could improve this blog in any way, I accept constructive criticism very well. I do NOT accept bigotry and hate very well, so please keep that to yourself. :)

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