As a child, growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, I did not celebrate Juneteenth. When I entered my teen years and moved to South Texas in 1983, again I did not celebrate. And five years later as a college student here in Austin, I still did not celebrate.  

My first Juneteenth celebration took place in 1995, at Woolridge Park, across the street from the Travis County Courthouse where I worked. I remember the smiles, the laughs, the food, the sweet tea, the music, and the feeling of community and pride. I also remember that as a 25-year-old, I admittedly was unaware of the full meaning and history Juneteenth encompassed. Eventually, I did learn the importance of Juneteenth and the reasons we celebrate this rich and historic day with the black community.

Juneteenth became an immediate and spontaneous celebration in Texas on June 19, 1865, when news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached Texas’ enslaved people. On June 19, 1866, the first anniversary of Juneteenth, the movement began in which Black Texans consistently celebrated on this date. Each year they would get together and there would be a public reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, with feasting, song, and prayer.  Barred from celebrating in town, it was common for church groups and Black-owned businesses to get together and network to pool their resources to purchase land outside the city limits to create a gathering space for their jubilee. Celebrating in their Sunday best, they would share stories, memories and probably ponder what future possibilities and challenges lie ahead.

Historically, Juneteenth was a Texas phenomenon because it specifically affected Black Texans. However, in the decades since World War II, Juneteenth developed a national interest, recognized in other wide-ranging communities across the country. Juneteenth became a Texas state holiday in 1980 thanks to Al Edwards from Houston, a freshman representative in the Texas House when in 1979, he authored and sponsored House Bill 1016, making June 19 (“Juneteenth”) a state-paid holiday in Texas. Today, Juneteenth is a state or ceremonial holiday in forty-eight of the 50 states.

My first introduction to Juneteenth was by an employer that recognized this holiday and intentionally took steps to celebrate the black community. I am grateful that here at the YMCA of Austin, we proudly celebrate Juneteenth, a holiday that represents freedom, strength, perseverance, resilience, community building, and much more within the black community.

Now, we come together as a community, on this day, June 19th, the Jubilee time, to celebrate. 

Below you will find a list of organizations that you can support and get involved in. This Black Lives Matters movement should not just be a fad. It should be a moment in history where we reflect and make significant changes to support communities of color.

Austin Justice Coalition (AJC)

As stated on their website:

The Austin Justice Coalition (AJC) serves people who are historically and systematically impacted by gentrification, segregation, over policing, a lack of educational and employment opportunities, and other institutional forms of racism in Austin. AJC’s mission is to improve the quality of life for people of color by helping them be the driving force behind their own liberation.

See their website for more information and to get involved: https://austinjustice.org/

Follow them on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Communities of Color United: Coalition for Racial Justice (CCU)

Communities of Color United is a coalition of individuals and grassroots organizations working for social justice for their own communities that have come together to work collectively for racial justice, advocate for improved racial equity, public health, and police divestment in Austin since 2014. In addition, they organize a POC mutual aid network.

The member organizations of the coalition include: allgo, Mama Sana/Vibrant Woman, ICE Fuera de Austin/ ICE Out of Austin, Food for Black Thought, Austin Language Justice Collective and Alliance for African American Health of Central Texas (AAAHCT).

Follow CCU on Facebook or Twitter to learn more about their work and learn about opportunities to get involved.

Grassroots Leadership

Grassroots Leadership is a nationally recognized civil and human rights organization based in Austin, that fights to end prison profiteering and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention through direct action, organizing, research, and public education.

See their website for more information and to get involved: http://grassrootsleadership.org/

Follow them on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Mama Sana Vibrant Women

Mama Sana Vibrant Woman (often referred to simply as Mama Sana) is a community organization that works to facilitate access to culturally appropriate and quality, prenatal and postnatal care for women of color in Austin and Travis County. They work to improve pregnancy and birth outcomes for communities of color by providing education and support.

See their website for more information and to get involved: https://www.msvwatx.org/

Follow them on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Undoing White Supremacy Austin (UWSA)

Undoing White Supremacy Austin is a group of white allies/accomplices that work with multiracial communities to end personal, structural, and cultural racism and build a racially just Austin.

As stated on their website, “We seek to undo racism in many ways, including educating ourselves on racial oppression, mobilizing other people of European descent to dismantle white supremacy, and supporting social justice organizing led by people of color communities, including indigenous people.”

Learn more and get involved on their website: https://undoingwhitesupremacy.org/

Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


Angela Castilleja
Director of Grants & Foundation Relations / Texas Youth & Government State Director
All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and/or contributors and not of their employer. Any questions or concerns regarding the content found here may be sent to info@austinymca.org

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