How My Family Celebrates Juneteenth (and Our Favorite Foods to Eat!)

published Jun 14, 2021
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Credit: Leslie McKeller

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Juneteenth is one of my favorite holidays to celebrate. Juneteenth, or “Freedom Day,” marks the announcement of the ending of slavery in Galveston, Texas, in 1865. Widely celebrated in the U.S. and worldwide, it’s a perfect opportunity to share an important moment for African Americans with my two little ones. An essential element of the holiday includes the color red, which represents the bloodshed and resilience of our African American ancestors. 

Credit: Food Network

We enjoy celebrating Juneteenth outdoors with a cookout or party on the front porch. I love to incorporate my family’s Gullah Geechee Lowcountry heritage into our festivities by decorating with Sweetgrass Baskets and indigo. Family-friendly activities at home are always a fun way to entertain the kids and guests. Create a Juneteenth paint activity with red, green, and black paint, then use the artwork to decorate for your party. We hang heritage wreaths on our three front doors and create a Juneteenth memory book to share with my kids’ grandparents. 

As for destinations, mini trips are ideal for little ones with short attention spans. We like to visit a local heritage site like the Tuskegee Airmen monument in Walterboro, South Carolina, or the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, where I had my wedding. My husband and I always read a Juneteenth book to the kids on our front porch swing.

Credit: Food Network

No Lowcountry Juneteenth is complete without gathering around food! I learned to cook from my parents, so getting my little ones involved with the Juneteenth meal is a special memory to make for all of us. We always visit a local Black-owned farm to pick up ingredients for the holiday dishes, including a special strawberry dish my children love. 

A traditional red drink is a must for Juneteenth, like this Hibiscus’ Red Drink’ Punch. My party menu always includes prosperity foods like collard greens or a pork dish, which symbolize good fortune. My husband loves to grill pork ribs and fresh veggies for the family and friends. Sweet potatoes are believed to be a part of the early Juneteenth celebrations, and they are deeply rooted in Lowcountry culture. A great way to get the kids to enjoy them is by adding them to pies or Sweet Potato Rolls.

Credit: Food Network

No Lowcountry Juneteenth celebration would be complete without fresh seafood, so we head to a local Black-owned seafood market for fresh blue crabs. My family ancestors were longshoremen, so this way, I can pay homage to my Lowcountry heritage. I love cooking red rice and blue crab with okra — a family favorite. You can also try this easy crab salad recipe at home. 

If you are looking for more recipes to add to your Juneteenth celebration, be sure to watch The Juneteenth Menu, my new series with Food Network. I’d love to know how you celebrated Juneteenth! Share your memories and plans on social using the hashtag #BlackSouthernBelle and #JuneteenthMenu