Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States, and specifically honors the day—June 19, 1865—that news of freedom made it to Galveston, Texas, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
Although Juneteenth has been celebrated by the African American community for decades, it was not until recent years that wider audiences have acknowledged the holiday. It’s often marked with cookouts, marches, pageants, festivals, picnics and parades, to name a few.
As the founder of event company To Be Hosted and While Entertaining, a yearly magazine that highlights Black chefs and provides resources for cooking and gathering at home, Juneteenth has been an occasion I’ve long enjoyed planning for. Here are a few tips for your Juneteenth celebration:
Start with a bubbly red drink
On Juneteenth, the color red is a reminder of all the bloodshed on the road to freedom. It symbolizes the strength and resilience of our ancestors. Traditionally, Black Texans have celebrated Juneteenth with lots of red foods and drinks. One of my favorite red drinks is a Hibiscus Soda:
1 liter sparkling water (with lemon flavor)
¾ cup hibiscus syrup
¼ cup sugar
Optional: Make it boozy with Patrón Extra Añejo (about a ½ cup)
1. Combine ingredients in a pitcher and stir. Pour into glasses filled with ice and garnish with a lemon wheel.
Arrange the welcome table with summer fruits
On a hot summer day, fresh, cold fruit is a visual delight that doubles as an appetizer. I set my welcome table with blackberries, blueberries, cherries, mangos, peaches, plums, raspberries, strawberries, and watermelon in a celebration of the season and a representation of abundance.
Turn to Black chefs to inspire your menu
I love Toni Tipton-Martin’s book Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking, which provides the most incredible recipes alongside the history of different dishes and traditions. Then there’s the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s book Sweet Home Cafe: A Celebration of African American Cooking, which includes some real crowd pleasers like fried green tomatoes, chow chow, and banana pudding. And I can’t help but recommend While Entertaining, the magazine that I produce annually, in which Black chefs from around the country share their stories and favorite recipes.
Prep festive music
The best playlists combine sounds of present day hip-hop with classic RnB. On the While Entertaining Juneteenth playlist, I’ve included James Brown, Anderson Paak, Pharrell Williams, and Solange. (I’ve also added the essential cookout line dances, to get people up and dancing!)
Respect. Reflect. Honor.
Celebrating Juneteenth is about learning America’s history and honoring the importance of freedom for all of us. Here are a few ideas to help you and your guests support and preserve the history of Juneteenth:
Calls to Action: Ask guests to support organizations like the Juneteenth Legacy Project.
Spark Conversation: Read excerpts from On Juneteenth by Antonette Gordon-Reed .
The Perfect Nightcap: End the evening with a viewing of the Netflix documentary series High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America.
Originally Appeared on Vogue