How to Celebrate Juneteenth in Yoga Spaces
Juneteenth is a national holiday coming up on June 19th. We're always looking for ways to honor important dates and occasions in our yoga spaces. Today we are taking a look at ways to pull Juneteenth into our yoga classes.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, is an important and historically significant holiday celebrated annually on June 19th in the United States. The word "Juneteenth" is a combination of "June" and "nineteenth," and it commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the country.
We often think of the 4th of July as Independence Day here in the US, but there's another US National Holiday that resonates with many of us as the real day of freedom. Juneteenth celebrates events from June 19, 1865 when all enslaved people were freed.
Many people don't realize this, but the Emancipation Proclamation was actually issued two years prior, declaring all enslaved people free. Texas was one of the confederate states that did not comply with the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Abraham Lincoln. On June 19, 1865, General Gordon Granger rolled up in Galveston, Texas with the Union Army to enforce the law that granted freedom to all the people who were still enslaved.
Many enslaved people in the Confederate states remained unaware of their freedom until the arrival of General Granger's announcement. Juneteenth symbolizes the moment when the last enslaved people in the United States were finally freed.
On that momentous day, General Granger read General Order No. 3, which stated: "The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free." The news of their liberation brought about a mixture of emotions, ranging from disbelief to joy and relief. African Americans, who had endured the horrors and hardships of slavery, embraced this newfound freedom and began to envision a future where they could build lives of their own.
The newly freed people immediately began to celebrate their emancipation. The first Juneteenth celebrations consisted of church services, prayer meetings, and other community gatherings. These events served as an opportunity for African Americans to come together, reflect on their past struggles, and envision a brighter future.
Over time, Juneteenth celebrations expanded beyond Texas as African Americans migrated to other parts of the country. The holiday became a symbol of freedom and liberation, a day to honor African American heritage, culture, and achievements. It also served as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for civil rights and equality.
During the early years, Juneteenth celebrations often included picnics, parades, and readings of the Emancipation Proclamation. Red foods such as red velvet cake and strawberry soda became traditional staples, symbolizing the resilience and perseverance of the African American community. Many people wore clothing with vibrant colors and patterns, paying homage to their African roots and celebrating their cultural identity.
In the face of racial segregation and systemic discrimination, Juneteenth provided a platform for African Americans to assert their pride, resilience, and determination. As the Civil Rights Movement gained momentum in the 20th century, Juneteenth celebrations became even more significant. The holiday served as a rallying point for African Americans in their fight for equality, justice, and an end to racial oppression.
In recent years, Juneteenth has gained increased recognition and prominence across the United States. Efforts to make Juneteenth a national holiday gained momentum, and on June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill into law declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday. This historic decision marked a significant step forward in acknowledging the importance of Juneteenth and its role in American history.
The designation of Juneteenth as a federal holiday signifies a broader acknowledgment of the struggles and achievements of African Americans throughout history. It encourages all Americans to reflect on the past, learn from it, and work towards a more inclusive and equitable future.
Today, Juneteenth celebrations vary in size and form, ranging from small community gatherings to large-scale festivals. They often include educational programs, live music performances, art exhibitions, and discussions on African American history and culture. It is a time for individuals and communities to engage in dialogue, learn from each other, and foster a deeper understanding of the African American experience.
Juneteenth stands as a testament to the resilience, courage, and determination of African Americans in the face of slavery, oppression, and ongoing challenges. It is a day to honor the contributions of African Americans to the fabric of American society, celebrate the progress made, and renew the commitment to the ongoing fight for equality and justice for all.
Why Is the Color Red Thematic Throughout Juneteenth Celebrations?
The color red is symbolic for Juneteenth as it represents the bloodshed and strength of all people who were enslaved. Foods that are typically eaten may include red velvet cake, watermelon, red cabbage, red beans and rice or barbecue.
You can also include red beverages in your Juneteenth celebrations, such as Hibiscus tea. Hibiscus tea is a traditional red beverage that is made from Hibiscus flowers and from crushed Kola Nut. But Kola Nut and Hibiscus are from West Africa.
If you want to make a gallon of Hibiscus tea, you would steep two big tablespoons of loose Hibiscus flowers (4-5 tea bags if you're using bags) in boiling water until the water turns a shade of red. If you like your tea sweet, you can add agave or whatever sweetener you like. Hibiscus tea is really good with strawberries, oranges or watermelon.
Who Celebrates Juneteenth?
All Americans should celebrate Juneteenth. It is important to honor the many people who labored until exhaustion and shed blood for a system that has oppressed, tormented, traumatized and exploited since its inception.
We celebrate the work that we've done and the distance we've come while fully acknowledging that there's more work to do and a long way to go to develop a culture that is grounded in justice, equity and freedom for everyone.
How Can We Honor Juneteenth in Our Yoga Spaces?
Honoring Juneteenth in yoga spaces can be a wonderful way to recognize the importance of this day. Here are just a few ways that we've come up with that you could consider:
Educational Workshop or Discussion: Invite a speaker or host a discussion to educate attendees about the significance of Juneteenth. It's crucial to understand why we commemorate this day and its importance in American history.
Theme Your Yoga Class: Design your yoga sessions around themes of freedom, liberation, resilience, and strength. Share the significance of Juneteenth at the beginning of the class and relate these themes back to it.
Diversify Your Music and Reading: If you don't do this regularly, you might consider incorporating music and readings from African American artists and authors in your yoga practice or the classes you tach. This could include everything from the music played during class to the readings shared during savasana or meditation.
Support Black Businesses: If you sell products in your yoga space, consider sourcing items from Black-owned businesses. You could also donate a portion of your profits from Juneteenth-related classes to charities supporting racial equality or Black communities.
Theme Your Yoga Class Around the Color Red: As red is symbolic for Juneteenth, you might consider theming your yoga classes around the color red. Maybe everyone is invited to wear something red to yoga class in honor of Juneteenth. You might focus on the root chakra, a deep garnet shade of red. You could beautifully blend this with any number of themes involving rooting and grounding.
Meditation for Healing: Incorporate a meditation focused on healing and reconciliation. This can provide a space for participants to reflect on their thoughts and feelings about racial justice.
Create a Safe Space: It's important to make sure your yoga space is welcoming and inclusive to everyone. You can emphasize this on Juneteenth, but it should be a priority at all times.
Reflect and Take Action: Encourage your yoga students to reflect on their own biases and actions. What can they do in their own lives to promote racial equality? You can provide resources to help them learn more and take steps towards change.
Remember that these actions shouldn't be limited to Juneteenth alone. Striving for diversity, inclusion, and education should be an ongoing process in any community.
Happy Juneteenth, friends!
Meditation Script for Juneteenth
Let's begin by finding a comfortable position. You may choose to sit or lie down. Allow your eyes to gently close, and take a moment to simply be present.
Begin by taking a deep breath in... feeling the air fill your lungs, and then slowly release that breath... letting go of any tension or worry. Continue this pattern of deep, intentional breaths. Breathe in peace, breathe out tension.
As we gather here today, we do so in recognition of Juneteenth, a day that marks the end of slavery in the United States. It is a day of liberation, a day of freedom, and a day to honor the strength and resilience of those who were enslaved.
Visualize a chain. It might look heavy, it might look unbreakable, but as we breathe, with each exhale, a link in the chain breaks. Continue to breathe and visualize this chain slowly breaking, link by link, until finally, it falls away, leaving nothing but open space. This is liberation.
Imagine this space filling with light, a bright, warm, healing light. It radiates from within you, a symbol of strength, resilience, and freedom. It's a light that has been carried and passed down through generations, a light that still shines brightly today.
Now, let's take a moment to send this healing, liberating light to those who came before us, those who fought for freedom, those who suffered, those who survived.
As we breathe in, we draw strength from their resilience. As we breathe out, we release a breath of gratitude, sending it out into the universe.
Reflect on the journey, the progress made, and the work still to be done. Remember that within you resides the power to effect change, to bring about justice, and to create a world filled with love, respect, and equality.
Take a few more deep breaths here, inhaling peace, exhaling gratitude. And when you're ready, slowly bring your awareness back to your surroundings, open your eyes, and carry this sense of liberation, resilience, and healing with you as you move through your day.
Remember the significance of Juneteenth, not just today, but every day, and let it inspire you to be a beacon of change in your own life and the lives of others. Thank you, and be well.