The Latest

THE LATEST

THE LATEST THINKING

THE LATEST THINKING

The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.

Celebrating Juneteenth in Brooklyn

Ellen Levitt

Posted on June 19, 2020 22:22

3 users

In the past, I have taught about Juneteenth (June 19) to high school students and acknowledged it. But this year I celebrated it and made it meaningful to my life.

It may seem odd for an American woman of Eastern European Jewish heritage to celebrate Juneteenth but this year I did. Juneteenth, June 19, is a holiday coming into wider acceptance now throughout the United States. Originally the date that Texas slaves learned of their emancipation in 1865, it has taken on a much bigger significance especially this year, in light of the terrifying murders of Black Americans such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others.

Sadly, many Americans had little idea about the meaning of Juneteenth. I first learned about it as a young social studies teacher and did include it in my US History curriculum when I taught at Murry Bergtraum High School in the 1990s. A friend of mine chided me about my lack of solid knowledge on the event, and from then on I made sure to include it in my lessons. 

This year I knew in advance that there would be many events held in person and online to commemorate Juneteenth, and I decided to attend at least two of them, and also cook a dinner that was soul-food inspired.

One of the most appealing sources of information I tapped into was the work of Michael Twitty, an African American and Jewish cook, culinary historian and writer. I also looked at other cooking websites for ideas, because it's very interesting to me to learn about how cooking in America has evolved over time.

My day started with a subway train ride and bicycle ride to Brooklyn's Central Library at the Grand Army Plaza. This beautiful 1930s building is still closed due to social distancing, but the outdoor plaza area was in use for a few local performance groups. I listened to a young woman who sang with a backing group. Several people wore t-shirts with messages such as "Black Lives Matter" and "Juneteenth 2020."

Then I biked a few minutes east, to the Brooklyn Museum. My favorite museum of all, the exhibitions are still closed due to the pandemic. But the first-floor lobby is set up for early primary voting. And today the outdoor steps and plaza area were the starting point for a rally that would commemorate Juneteenth and march north through a sizable section of Brooklyn.

I took note of the signs and speeches and was pleased to see nearly everyone wearing a mask and trying to keep some distance between themselves and others. After a half-hour, I decided to bike home through the Flatbush neighborhood. I lived in Flatbush as a very young child, and it is now a largely Caribbean American neighborhood but still diverse and vibrant. I even passed Erasmus Hall High School, my mother's alma mater, and the oldest secondary school in North America.

At home, I baked cornbread, made a dish of seasoned greens and a take-off on Hoppin' John. My family and I enjoyed it and we reflected on how we can embrace this side of Americana. It's a learning opportunity.

Ellen Levitt

Posted on June 19, 2020 22:22

Comments

comments powered by Disqus
Source: Pitchfork

“A national Juneteenth observance can affirm that Black Lives Matter!”

THE LATEST THINKING

Video Site Tour

The Latest
The Latest

Subscribe to THE LATEST Newsletter.

The Latest
The Latest

Share this TLT through...

The Latest