Celebrating Juneteenth in Our Community: Freedom Day

June 19, 2023, marks the third annual observance of Juneteenth as a federal holiday, commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S. and championing the ongoing struggle for equity and justice. Though Juneteenth is newly on the official US holiday list, many African American communities have celebrated the date for generations. For some, it’s a barbecue, shooting fireworks, gathering at a cookout and sipping on red drinks, a tradition that symbolizes perseverance and honors the blood that was shed of African-Americans. For others, it’s shopping only at black-owned businesses, sharing history, learning something new or a day of rest.

At the Y, we invite you to join us in celebrating this freedom and the continual mission of providing equal opportunities for all to learn, grow and thrive. For us, equality isn't just a buzzword, it's our mission, and we will continue to listen, learn, speak with purpose, lead with integrity and keep that vision of a harmonious society in our focus. 

What Is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, commemorates the day in 1865 when a group of enslaved people in Galveston, Texas finally learned that they were free from the institution of slavery—nearly two and half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. This day serves to emphasize the education and achievements throughout our history, but its growing popularity shows the long overdue maturity and dignity in our history. Across America, people of all races, nationalities, ages, and religions, come together to acknowledge a period in our history that shaped and influences our society today.

So, now you're probably wondering how to celebrate, right? Here's a few ideas our team gathered up:


1. Support Local Black Owned Business

To do our part to drive positive change, the Summit Area YMCA has developed an evolving directory of local Black owned businesses in New Jersey for all to use and source from.

Here are just a few local businesses right in our area:

• Juice Dreams (Summit, NJ) - Made fresh to order organic, cold pressed juices. Love your body. Nourish your soul. Fuel your dreams.

• TruBeauty Hair Studio & Hair Loss Center (Springfield, NJ) - Licensed cosmetologist in NJ. Specializes in hair replacement using cranial prosthesis. Styles men, women, and children with major hair loss. 20 + years’ experience in the hair industry and over 10 years in the hair replacement industry.

• Lively Laser Tag (Springfield, NJ) - Lively Laser Tag offers incredible fun for incredible people. Its innovative approach raises the bar on play and provides a premier playstyle for this generation. It features exhilarating laser tag, today’s most popular arcade games, a state-of-the-art video game room and dance parties. With both kids and adults in mind, it’s fun for all ages.

• Your Doc In The Box (Short Hills & Millburn, NJ) - Throughout her years of clinical experience, USA licensed psychologist, Dr. Hutchins, has curated a wealth of information from questions that have been asked of her in her clinical psychology practice. Realizing that this information would be beneficial to people of all walks of life, she decided to create a set of cards comprised of questions and helpful responses that she has identified throughout the years and so Your Doc In The Box was born.

• Kicka Stretch Studios (Summit, NJ) - In 2011, Kika Wise founded Kika Stretch Studios to introduce a new approach to how people think about health and fitness. Through gentle assisted stretching, Kika Stretch Studios helps clients maintain youth and vitality with designed tension relief that aids in increased flexibility and overall ability.

• ILE Events (Summit, NJ) - ILE Events makes wedding planning fun, and there team is inspired by life and moments, pulling from the best memories of your childhood. Having access and relationships to passionate creative partners brings a breath of fresh air to planning. There process keeps you in the driver seat while allowing you to relax and enjoy the ride.

• Polycarp Flowers (Summit, NJ) - Polycarp Flowers began in the summer of 2016 with a vision for wanting to artistically bring the outdoors indoors. They are a small and mighty team of creative floral designers, and they all love what they do. They are passionate about their work and their clients benefit from this with the exceptional attention to detail and creativity that goes into each one of our projects.

Looking for more or have one to add? View the full Black-owned Business Directory here


Black Restaurant Week - Along with supporting Black-owned restaurants across the tri-state (nationally and all year round, of course!), you can participate in Black Restaurant Week June 17 - July 2. Discover black-owned restaurants food trucks, sweets, and more across New York City, New Jersey townships, and additional surrounding metro areas! 


2. Attend a celebration or festivity

The Summit Area YMCA is proud to take part in the City of Summit’s Second Annual Juneteenth Celebration held on Saturday, June 17, 2:00-7:00 PM on Summit's Village Green. This free event is open to all members of the public. Activities include live performances, games, music, food trucks, black-owned vendor and display fair, and more! 

3. HELP Disrupt economic injustice

As cited from CNN's Impact Your World, check out the following national organizations working to dismantle oppressive practices to help African Americans get into business schools, start their own businesses and achieve home ownership:

•  JP Morgan Chase + Advancing Black Pathways - JP Morgan Chase has committed $30 billion by the end of 2025 to foster “economic growth and opportunity for Black, Hispanic and Latino communities.” The Advancing Black Pathways initiative is pledging access, money and loans towards the growth of small businesses, home loans and more.

•  3 by 30 - 3 by 30 is a plan by The Black Homeownership Collaborative to create “3 million net new Black homeowners by 2030.” They say that those numbers would increase the overall percent of Black homeowners by 10%. The collaborative has laid out a 7-point plan to achieve this mission to not only help new Black homeowners but sustain existing homeowners as well.

•  SEO or Sponsors for Educational Opportunity helps youth from “underserved and historically excluded communities” take the next step through academic programs, internships and networking opportunities. SEO helps more than 6,000 young people each year get into college, graduate and then land jobs across a vast number of industries, including Wall Street.

•  Black Owned Everything hosts a space where Black brands can be “celebrated and validated.” The site features products from beauty, lifestyle, clothing, and accessory brands created by Black designers.

•  EatOkra connects consumers with Black-owned eateries in cities across the US. EatOkra seeks to enable “consumers to claim their power as conscious buyers and discover a rich food culture while helping Black owners gain brand awareness and grow their businesses.”

•  HomeFree-USA is a nonprofit working to close the racial wealth gap by improving both homeownership and business opportunities for people of color. The organization also has a special focus towards helping students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Through their Center for Financial Advancement program, HomeFree-USA helps connect HBCU students with real estate, tech and financial job opportunities.


4. Visit a local or national museum

Or for those who can’t, a number of museums and historical institutions nationwide are participating in virtual programming by BLKFreedom.org to commemorate Juneteenth.

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C. is hosting live and in-person events offering engaging, educational opportunities that celebrate the dynamic lives of African American ancestors and their civic contributions toward a more equitable future. “It’s important to show that people across history have always been engaged civically to make their lives better, to build a more perfect Union,” says Deirdre Cross of the National Museum of African American History & Culture.

“Understanding that legacy of citizenship is especially necessary for people who are living today, not to look back on the past with rose-colored glasses necessarily, but just to see that it is a tradition in this country to look at current conditions and see how they might be made better with an idea of improving the way we live now, providing a blueprint for how to make lives better for future generations.”

The theme of this year’s celebration is the “Senses of Freedom: The Taste, Sounds, and Experience of an African American Celebration.” Events include exploration of cuisine, culture, and civic engagement. A musical performance will be open to the public in-person and online June 19th.


5. Indulge in Music by Black Artists

The roots of pop, jazz, soul, R&B, hip-hop, gospel, house, folk and disco music can all be traced to talented Black musicians. So many of today’s most popular genres, trends and artists just wouldn’t exist without the work of the most influential Black musicians of the 20th century, all of whom helped lay the groundwork for music as we know and love it today.

This list of the 30 most influential Black musicians of all time ranges from Aretha Franklin to Prince and Miles Davis, but it is just a small selection of the hundreds of Black artists, singers, musicians and producers who have shaped popular culture.




We know all too well that there's still work to do in the fight against racial injustice. In our dedication to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion for all, we have compiled a variety of free educational resources, recommended readings, videos, and trainings on racial equity, how to stand up against racism, how to stop racist comments in person and online, tolerance trainings and more. Join us in becoming a part of the solution that helps dismantle systemic racism by exploring these resources today at www.thesay.org/anti-racism.


7. Explore selected readings & documentaries by Black Authors

“Learn what Juneteenth is all about — that’s where you start,” says Cliff Robinson, who created the website Juneteenth.com about 25 years ago to offer information about national events. “It’s just like Veterans Day and Memorial Day. It’s a time to stop and think about the history, your own history or the history of a friend.”

• Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) by Zora Neale Hurston
• Not Without Laughter (1930) by Langston Hughes
• Native Son (1940) and Black Boy (1945) by Richard Wright
• Shadow and Act (1964) and Going to Territory (1986) by Ralph Ellison
• Roots (1976) and The Autobiography of Malcom X (1965) by Alex Hakey
• Giovanni’s Room (1956) and His Masterpiece, Go Tell It on The Mountain (1953) by James Baldwin
• I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) and On the Pulse of Morning (1993) by Maya Angelou
• Songs of Solomon (1977) and Sula (1973) by Toni Morrison
• Bloodchild (1995) by Octavia Butler
• The Color Purple (1982) by Alice Walker


The Summit Area YMCA strives to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment where daily operations and programs support the well-being and safety of all individuals. We believe that with open conversations and learning opportunities in a safe environment will help our community become stronger and more inclusive with each passing day. We have dedicated training for our staff to develop their understanding of biases and the many dimensions of diversity, in efforts to remove stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination in our society and better serve our community as a welcoming and supportive environment.

The Summit Area YMCA is the first Diversity, Inclusion and Global Innovation Network YMCA in New Jersey committed to creating a culture in which diversity and inclusion are integral to everyday operations. Through welcoming, inclusive practices and environments, we welcome and engage all people from all diverse groups of the community to help and create lasting, meaningful change. We at the Y realize that in order to better the world around us and for the future, we must unite and work towards the strengthening of the individual in mind, body and spirit. For a stronger individual. For a united community. For a better us.

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In 1886, we were founded as the Young Men's Christian Association, but today, we are The Y. An association that values, and is made stronger by, its diverse people. We stand for youth development, healthy living and social responsibility — For a better us. We are committed to creating equal opportunity for all regardless of gender, age, disability, income, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religious affiliation. We strive to create a welcoming and inclusive culture in which our four core values — responsibility, honesty, caring and respect — are integral to everyday operations.

Each year, as one of the area’s leading 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, the Summit Area YMCA serves more than 17,000 individuals with our free and fee-based programs and services in an area spanning the New Jersey communities of Berkeley Heights, Gillette, Millburn, New Providence, Short Hills, Springfield, Stirling and Summit. Our history is rooted in working side-by-side with our neighbors to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive. Through the generosity of our members, donors, and partners, we are able to offer financial assistance for our programs and services to those in need.