Mourning & Celebrating Mindfully: Lessons from Juneteenth to Incorporate Into Our Everyday Lives

Using sadness and transforming it into gratitude is essential to not only Juneteenth, but our everyday consciousness as Black people.
A painting by Megan Gabrielle—entitled “Rebirth.” (Megan Gabrielle)

Welcome back to the 2nd part of our two-part Juneteenth series!

This week is about uplifting the importance of mourning and celebration. Both are major components that are often missing from our larger conversation about Black holidays and celebrations. Yes, Juneteenth is about celebration, but it is also about the horrors of slavery, what our ancestors were forced to endure, and how we can incorporate such wisdom and cultural memory into our everyday lives.

When you think about the freedoms (however limited) we experience now, and take into account the beauty and peace we get to experience, one can’t help but be overcome with sadness that our ancestors never got to experience peace or an opportunity for rest and luxury. 

Using that sadness and transforming it into a practice of gratitude is essential to not only Juneteenth, but our everyday consciousness as Black people. Juneteenth celebrates the ending of what was ultimately one of the most brutal and painful collective experiences in the history of the human species. But attention must be paid, and we must never forget this past (despite those who are trying their best to erase it!)

Mindfulness isn’t all about trying to make everything positive or negative. Being mindful of the freedom and relief so many of our ancestors died for and never got to see is something that you can sit with in love. Knowing that their sacrifice paved a way for all we have overcome, even with so much left to go is empowering, enriching and downright something to be proud of. 

The people that were stolen are still here. They live in us and have spiritual and emotional access to us. Here’s a few ways to practice mindful mourning and celebration on the day.

Call them in during your celebrations. Thank your spiritual guide (Jesus, Allah, etc). Thank the stars. Thank whoever you worship for bringing them to this earth despite the pain they endured. Creating moments of silence and reflection to honor them in peace is a way that you can mourn them mindfully.

Enjoy yourself. Having joy and introducing luxury and total rest into your celebration cannot be understated. This is our chance to implement all that fabulous self-care that social media is always raving about! Think of what our ancestors wouldn’t give to take a long luxurious bath. Buy yourself a special treat or a luxury item you can enjoy beyond the day, like silk sheets or even a candle or new cologne. Think of how delighted they would be to have a brand new manicure and pedicure ( YES MEN TOO). Just imagine them so relieved to have someone show THEM the love and care that we now get to show ourselves with no pushback. Honor their pain by taking hold of your joy!

Create a tablescape in your home for the day. Bring in pictures of your ancestors and close relatives and friends. People you love and are grateful for. Buy some Roses, and beautiful smelling herbs and flowers and decorate with red, black and green as a centerpiece for your celebration. Honor those in your family who can’t be there, by bringing them in the room.

Tell Stories and ask to hear some. Our elderly and older family members, mentors and friends have so much wisdom to share. Even if those stories are painful or chronicle the struggle hearing of the years and days of Juneteenth and generations passed, they give us wisdom and truth to enrich us. Take stock and pray for better days as you listen and hear the recalling of our journey as a people.

Serve people less fortunate. The fact is we as the Black community still aren’t “there” yet. We still have so many members of our diaspora, our tapestry that need our love and care. Think about the ancestors who escaped slavery, only to go back and buy or free their family and friends to freedom. Think of the collective community work it took after emancipation for us all to get a leg up and move forward into business, education, homeownership and elevated quality of living. We still need to stick together like that today. Go volunteer at a kitchen, start a fundraiser for a Black-owned or focused charity. Be mournful of the near impossible task it took to build and sustain new life after freedom and honor your ancestors by taking care of those in that struggle now.

Take a day of TOTAL REST where Labor is void. I mean it, a total day! We built this country and have brought so much innovation, culture, beauty, resourcefulness and incredible power to this nation by way of our work ethic, our ingenuity and intelligence. Despite what capitalism might tell us, we need and deserve days to REST. We are free (somewhat). Take a long nap, lay out by a pool and don’t pick up the phone to scroll or look at the time. Spend a few hours away from electronics. Snuggle with your lover or partner. Cuddle with your pets or kids and think of how the rest our ancestors desperately needed was much deprived from them. Then revel in the fact that you have space for the rest of your life that they could only dream of.

Lastly, while Juneteenth is about Black Texas Enslaved People and their descendants finally being able to feel and enjoy the relief of freedom, it does not only have to be a one-day a year event.

We are always worth celebration. It is always worth uplifting our dignity, our full humanity and the opportunity to experience the beauty of life.

As we move forward from our Juneteenth celebrations this year I hope you hold on to these principles and continue to practice remembrance and celebration of the strength and perseverance it took our people for us to even exist as we do today.

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