Please welcome K’Cee, a therapist and educator who is sharing an important article on the history of Juneteenth and how important this new federal holiday is to the African American people. She will also share ten yoga poses with matching intentions to reflect the principles that are important for commemorating Juneteenth.
History of Juneteenth
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of the slave trade in the United States, which had been the main industry of the southern part of the country, at the expense of millions of African people who were stolen from their homelands to provide free labor in harsh, inhumane conditions. The South’s refusal to end the slave trade resulted in a Civil War that lasted from 1861 to 1865.
The holiday originated in Texas. On June 19th, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger and a group of Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to give news that the American Civil War had ended and that the enslaved people were now free from their owners. This was two years after the Emancipation Proclamation officially ended slavery during President Abraham Lincoln’s speech on January 1, 1863. Because of slow progression with enforcement of the proclamation, Texas was the last Confederacy state to be informed.
Starting the following year with community church or waterside gatherings in Texas, Juneteenth celebrations spread across the southern United States. The celebrations included food, sports, rodeos, fishing, socializing, music, singing, and dancing.
During the Great Migration, many African Americans moved north for better opportunities. With them, they brought the tradition of Juneteenth celebrations Some former slaves made an annual Juneteenth pilgrimage to Galveston.
On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law, making Juneteenth an official federal holiday on the third Saturday in June. This was the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was adopted in 1983.
On Juneteenth, we honor our ancestors and acknowledge the hardships they endured during their transition from slavery to freedom. We celebrate the culture and progress of African Americans while also bringing awareness to the ongoing inequalities faced by the community.
For more information on the history, see here and here.
10 Yoga Poses with Intentions to Honor Juneteenth
Below are ten yoga poses that commemorate the Juneteenth holiday and represent the intentional principles of freedom, peace, love, community, mindful living, and acknowledging those who came before us.
1. Mountain Pose
How to practice Mountain Pose: Stand tall with your legs hip-width apart and feet facing forward. Take your arms straight alongside your body.
2. Extended Mountain Pose
Intention: Gratitude/Honoring our Ancestors
How to practice Partner Extended Mountain Pose: Stand tall in Mountain Pose with your legs hip-width apart, facing each other about two arm’s length away from each other. Take your arms straight up to the sky and touch your palms together. In synch with your partner, lean your torso forward and press your palms against your partner’s palms. Be in communication (through words or body language) to help balance each other. Come out of the pose when you’re both ready.
3. Tree Pose with hands at heart center
Intention: Hope through prayer
How to practice Tree Pose with hands at heart center: Stand on one leg. Bend the knee of the leg you are not standing on, place the sole of your foot on the opposite inner thigh or calf (just not on your knee), and balance. Raise both arms above your head then bring them down, bringing your palms together in front of your sternum. Switch sides and repeat the steps.
4. Crescent Lunge
Intention: Progression of Community goals
How to practice Crescent Lunge Pose: From a standing position, step your right foot back into a lunge with your left foot directly over your left knee and a straight back leg. Inhale and take your parallel arms straight up overhead. Open your chest, look up, and take a few deep breaths. Switch sides and repeat the steps.
5. Warrior 2 Pose
Intention: Equality and Balance
How to practice Warrior 2 Pose: Start in a standing position. Step one foot back, bend your front knee, and open your hips to the side. Then reach both arms up, parallel to your legs, and look over your front fingertips. Make sure your front knee is bent forward so that your knee is over your ankle. Switch sides and repeat the steps.
6. Reverse Triangle Pose
How to practice Reverse Triangle Pose: From standing position, step your left foot back, pointing
your toes slightly outward. Raise your arms out to your sides, parallel to the ground. Bring your left arm forward and your right hand backward. Tilt your torso forward, reaching your left arm far forward. Drop your left hand to your calf or to the ground on the outside of your right foot. Open your chest and take your right hand up to the sky. Keep your hips straight and focus on twisting from your upper back. Switch sides and repeat the steps.
7. Eagle Pose
Intention: Peace and Serenity
How to practice Eagle Pose: Stand tall in Mountain Pose. Wrap your left leg around your right. Bring your bent arms out in front of you, wrap your right arm around your left arm, and bend your knees slightly. Switch sides and repeat the steps.
8. Squat Pose
Intention: Connection to the traditions of our Ancestors
How to practice Squat Pose: Come down to a squat with your knees apart and your arms between your knees. Touch your hands to the ground.
9. Happy Baby Pose
Intention: Joy and Happiness
How to practice Happy Baby Pose: Lie on your back with your chin tucked in, hug your knees into your chest, then grab the outer parts of each foot—right foot in right hand and left foot in left hand.
10. Resting Pose
Intention: Blessings and Abundance
How to practice Resting Pose: Lie on your back with your arms and legs stretched out. Breathe and rest.
Activity to Honor Juneteenth
Start a tradition by planting a seed on Juneteenth!
Red food and drinks were significant to former slaves as the color stood for sacrifice, transition, and power, a tradition they brought from their homelands. Plant red vegetables and fruits, such as red peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, and red potatoes. Other traditional crops to consider planting include squash, corn, and greens.
8 Juneteenth Books for Kids
Some recommended books to commemorate this special holiday are below:
(Book summaries are courtesy of Google Books and Amazon.com)
This post contains affiliate links.
Juneteenth for Maize by Floyd Cooper
(age range: 6-9 years old)
Mazie is ready to celebrate liberty, freedom on a great day in American history—the day her ancestors were no longer slaves. Mazie remembers the struggles and the triumph, as she gets ready to celebrate Juneteenth.
All Different Now: Juneteenth the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson
(age range: 5-9)
Experience the joy of Juneteenth in this celebration of freedom Through the eyes of one little girl, All Different Now tells the story of the first Juneteenth, the day freedom finally came to the last of the slaves in the South.
Juneteenth by Drew Nelson
June 19th, 1865, began as another hot day in Texas. Enslaved African Americans worked in fields, in barns, and in the homes of the white people who owned them. Then a message arrived. Freedom! Slavery had ended! The Civil War had actually ended in April. It took two months for word to reach Texas. Still the joy of that amazing day has never been forgotten. Every year, people all over the United States come together on June 19th to celebrate the end of slavery. Join in the celebration of Juneteenth, a day to remember and honor freedom for all people.
Juneteenth: Beautiful Me by Aneche Rochell
(age range: 4-7)
Daylen is excited and ready to share everything he knows about Juneteenth. Juneteenth is an entertaining picture storybook that explains the origin, customs, and importance of the Juneteenth Holiday, in a fun and interactive way.
Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth by Alice Faye Duncan
The true story of Black activist and Texas native Opal Lee and her vision of Juneteenth as a holiday for everyone will inspire children to be brave and make a difference.
Juneteenth Jamboree by Carole Boston Weatherford
Cassandra and her family have moved to her parents’ hometown in Texas, but it doesn’t feel like home to Cassandra until she experiences Juneteenth, a Texas tradition celebrating the end of slavery.
What is Juneteenth by Kristi Jewel
(age range: 8-12)
Author Kirsti Jewel shares stories from Juneteenth celebrations, both past and present, and chronicles the history that led to the creation of this joyous day.
The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States by Alliah Agostini
(age range: 6-9)
Learn about the events that led to emancipation and why it took so long for the enslaved people in Texas to hear the news. The first Juneteenth began as “Jubilee Day,” where families celebrated and learned of their new rights as citizens. As Black Texans moved to other parts of the country, they brought their traditions along with them, and Juneteenth continued to grow and develop.
How do you celebrate Juneteenth? Please share your stories with us by commenting below or emailing us directly!
About the Author
K’Cee Horne is a licensed therapist, behavior specialist/analyst, and educator with a varied background ranging from writing to customer service to digital project management. She is currently a consultant for virtual educational platforms and a therapist for early intervention programs.
She is the owner of The Moving Brain, which started with providing special needs social and travel services but has now grown into a holistic and solution-focused therapeutic and wellness practice in the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area. She is also creator of the innovative Co-Parent Connection program.
She has studied and practiced yoga for over a decade and recently earned her teacher certification in Vinyasa yoga with additional specialties such as yoga therapy, trauma-informed yoga, and breathwork. K’Cee joined Kids Yoga Stories in 2021 as part of their goal of expanding yoga philosophy and mindful living with BIPOC to possibly resolve many of the issues affecting their communities.
When she isn’t pursuing her passions of travel and cultural exploration, K’Cee resides in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area with her son, tabby cat Pepper, and many plants.
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