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Celebrating Black Culture: 5 Lit Ways To Enjoy Juneteenth

Summer is still on and you deserve a break, sis.

Culture & Entertainment

Celebrating the Fourth of July might be the last thing on your mind with all that's going on in the world, but we do have a historical moment to celebrate in American history: Juneteenth. It falls on June 19 and is a day not only to celebrate the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation, but to honor our contribution to American culture and advancement. Some companies are even making it a paid holiday and we're definitely here for it.

Whether you're self-isolating and limiting group outings, or living your best life out and about, here are a few ideas for fun things to do---and great ways to support black-owned brands at the same time---for a lit Juneteenth:

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Solo Celebration: Indoor or Patio Barbecue

If you're still feeling a bit apprehensive about any type of group activities, I'm with you sis. Fire up the grill anyway or put that oven broiler to work. Cop a few sparklers and streamers and hit up a few vendors for fab party decor on Etsy. Find menu inspiration via cookbooks including The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty or Jubilee by Tony Tipton-Martin.

Make a nice sangria with a wine bundle from the McBride Sisters or a few grown-and-sexy cocktails with HH Bespoke Spirits. Put on that holiday cookout mix from Spotify, and wear that printed romper you would've worn to that cancelled street festival.

Social Distance Soiree: An Outdoor Movie Party

This is a good way to get people together while promoting social distancing. Invite a small group (no more than 10-20), supply masks, rent a projector (or even invest in an affordable one like this or this ) and make a station for hand-washing and sanitizing. Place the seating strategically apart to accommodate interaction but discourage crowd-gathering.

Stream films like Miracle at St. Anna (a Spike Lee joint set during World War II), Glory (an Oscar-winning Civil War classic starring Denzel Washington), Hidden Figures (about black female NASA phenoms) or Barry (a Netflix film about the early life of former President Barack Obama). Not into history films?

Bring out the oldies but goodies set in summer like Crooklyn,The Inkwell, Independence Day, or Girls Trip.

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Holiday Staycation: Friends Sleepover Edition

So your state has reopened its businesses and you feel comfy going outside---just not in a super-public space with strangers you don't know. Try renting a suite at a local or nearby hotel with a pool and create your own Juneteenth slumber party with a few besties or your immediate family. (You can start with this great list of black-owned bed-and-breakfast spots.) Or go with a local Airbnb that has a private pool. (Hosts are even offering "quarantine retreats" or "social distancing spaces" for people who want a break from their usual surroundings.) Wear fun PJs, tune in to a live DJ set on IG or streaming radio, and get creative with the snacks and drinks.

Remember, hotels have safety and sanitation guidelines they must adhere to. You can always bring your own wipes and disinfectant sprays, and continue practicing social distancing where mandated.

Airbnb even has updated its guidelines and best practices for hosts. If you're still a bit apprehensive about the cleanliness of a property where you'd like to stay, message the host, ask lots of questions, and look for listings that have flexible cancellation policies.

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Interactive Game Party

I know, I know. Some of us have had enough of virtual events. But it might be nice to step things up a bit and have giveaways, care packages with wine glasses, snacks, and drinks sent to attendees beforehand. You can also set up breakout rooms where people can hear different types of music being played and mingle separately. (I attended an awards event that included these elements and it made participating that much more fun.)

Add games to the mix like University of Dope, Black Card Revoked, or One Gotta Go, and have everyone contribute to a Cash App or Paypal prize for the winners of each round. You could even do virtual karaoke and dance contests where everyone gets a chance to participate.

Share videos from past trips or parties and anecdotes about those memories. Make your party truly interactive where the guests feel like they're not even missing out on the in-person aspect of the usual holiday festivities.

We Outside: Rooftop Party

If you're OK with getting your party on and all the social distancing restrictions for gatherings have been lifted in your state, by all means, do you. This is a great option for those who live in smaller apartment buildings or brownstones where rooftop access is allowed, or for those who'd rather party with familiar faces in slightly larger crowds.

If you don't already live in a cool spot with roof access, try a platform like Peerspace or Splacer to find a cool space. Put a little money in the pockets of black lounge and bar owners and rent their rooftop or smaller cabana spaces.

(Here's a good place to start.) I still recommend a sanitation station for all entering guests (stocked with antibacterial soap, a wash basin, bottled water, and hand sanitizer at least)---and you might even want to throw in a few masks for those who still choose to wear them. Charge a fee or monetary gift for entry and then donate the proceeds to a great organization that supports creatives, entrepreneurs or activists of color.

Whatever you choose, be sure to remember what Juneteenth is all about: Remembering the magic that is us and empowering ourselves to continue to survive and thrive.

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Featured image by Shutterstock

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

This article is in partnership with Staples.

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