How the travel industry is celebrating Juneteenth in 2020 — and why it’s so important

Jun 19, 2020

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This Friday, June 19, marks an important day in United States history.

On this day in 1865, Major General Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, heralding an important announcement: The Civil War was over, and slavery was outlawed.

While slavery had been banned by the Emancipation Proclamation two and a half years earlier, many slave owners had ignored the executive order and continued to hold slaves captive. With Granger’s announcement, June 19 became known as the true day of African-American freedom and the end of slavery in the United States.

Now, 155 years later, most U.S. states, including Washington, D.C., officially commemorate or celebrate the historic day, known as Juneteenth, according to the Congressional Research Service.

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What Juneteenth means in the travel industry

(Photo by Orli Friedman/The Points Guy)
The Black History Month Panel at The Points Guy with our very own Benét Wilson and Vikkie Walker. (Photo by Orli Friedman/The Points Guy)

Juneteenth has long been an important holiday in the African American community, but it’s rarely been thrust into the spotlight or celebrated by all Americans. And that needs to change.

TPG’s credit cards editor, Benét Wilson, said, “My father’s parents were both from San Antonio, Texas, which is where Juneteenth originated. I grew up pre-internet, so my parents were really great about teaching us about Black history and traditions. Growing up, we celebrated Juneteenth as a picnic. We’d discuss the meaning, but it was really more about being with family. I didn’t realize until high school (when we moved to Washington, D.C.) that people didn’t know that it was a significant day in the Black experience.”

Dayvee Sutton, a national travel and lifestyle correspondent, echoed Wilson. “Juneteenth is an American independence day​, celebrated primarily by ​​the ​descendants of people who were enslaved in this country, or what we like to say, ‘African Americans,'” Sutton told TPG. “But, it should be a day celebrated by all Americans, because it is American history. And all Americans should be happy that the enslaved are free, right? I think this year, Juneteeth will have more meaning in that more people, beyond Black Americans, are interested. It is important to not only know the truths of the past, but to confront them as well, if we are genuinely in a space where we can move forward together.”

Around the country, Juneteenth is typically marked by parades and other celebrations.

In the Galveston area, locals and visitors can visit the official Juneteenth marker, located near the Strand near 22nd Street beneath the oak trees.  And the 41st annual Al Edwards Juneteenth Celebration — the state representative whose bill created the holiday — will take place starting at 10 a.m. CST, according to ABC News. It’s the first year the celebration will take place without him, though, as he passed away in April of this year. The celebration will be streamed online via Galveston’s website and Facebook page.

Juneteenth Celebration parade in Denver. (Photo By Joe Amon/The Denver Post/Getty Images)
Juneteenth Celebration parade in Denver. (Photo By Joe Amon/The Denver Post/Getty Images)

Despite coronavirus concerns, the city of Denver, Colorado will host its annual parade this year as planned, CPR News reported. The annual live music portion of the event, though, will happen online. Organizers are also asking attendees to get tested for COVID-19 ahead of time, wear masks and stay six feet apart when possible.

In Macon, Georgia, the Tubman Museum will hold a special drive-in movie experience for visitors by streaming “Dreamgirls” in the Centreplex parking lot, according to the local news station. And Chicago will host a free car parade throughout the city. Patrons are being encouraged to bring flags — and the whole family — to celebrate their ancestors and emancipation.

For television host, writer and travel influencer Oneika Raymond, it’s an especially important day this year.

“Even though I was born in Canada, Juneteenth is an important celebration for me because it marks the symbolic end of slavery in the U.S. and represents the first true taste of freedom for Black people in America. I haven’t really celebrated it in previous years, but given the current social and political climate I will make it a point to do so this year. Black people need joy in the midst of all this craziness! There are a few in-person events around New York City that I’m thinking of attending — barring that, I’ll tune in to the SummerStage virtual Juneteenth celebration that’s scheduled to stream live performances on both Instagram Live and YouTube.”

Celebrations have gone virtual elsewhere around the country, too.

The Juneteenth Parade in Center City, PA. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/Getty Images)
The Juneteenth Parade in Philadelphia’s Center City. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/Getty Images)

The Juneteenth Virtual Music Festival took place on Thursday, June 18, and honored the sixth-annual Dream Big Awards. The awards highlight people who have made a positive impact in their communities — and in between the interviews, get ready for plenty of musical performances, live podcasts, a virtual cipher and even a dance competition. There will be comedy and financial literacy segments, too.

“As a daughter of the South … Juneteenth is very special to me; It’s the day our ancestors learned that slavery had ended,” said Marian Anderson, a communications and marketing consultant based in Atlanta and the creator of Haute Travel. “Although COVID-19 has caused large gatherings to be canceled in many places this year, I’ll celebrate with my family at home in Atlanta. It is important to reflect on our past but also seize this moment in history to forge a new path toward justice and equality for Black people in America and other people of color who have been oppressed for so long. The work is not over.”

For many others, Juneteenth is a time for meaningful reflection, unplugging and reconnecting with family and loved ones.

Vikkie Walker, a reporter at TPG, said, “As a general rule, I don’t celebrate the Fourth of July but I do celebrate and honor Juneteenth, the day commemorating the end of chattel slavery in the United States. I don’t have any plans for the day — it’s a little hard to celebrate and gather like I normally would — so I plan to spend the day unplugging and relaxing.”

Founder and host of “Fly Brother With Ernest White II,” Ernest White II, said he’s “currently in the throes of rolling out [his] new television travel series” to public television stations around the country. Even still, he’s planning to pause to celebrate the holiday. “I’m looking forward to taking at least half the day to be still, connect with my family and friends and take a very needed break from the noise of social media.”

Here at TPG, we encourage you to also take time to reflect and unplug if you can. No matter where or how you’re celebrating, it’s an important day to take a step back and acknowledge where we’ve come from — and more importantly, where we are going.

Featured photo by Tippman98x/Shutterstock.

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