This Juneteenth We Celebrate Black Excellence

As soon as I published this post, the President signed a bill recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday.  But what I found even more inspiring is Color Of Change’s call to action to keep our eyes on the prize in honor of Juneteenth. A call to action when we’re with our family and friends this year celebrating […]

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Netflix docuseries High On The Hog celebrates Juneteenth

As soon as I published this post, the President signed a bill recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. 

But what I found even more inspiring is Color Of Change’s call to action to keep our eyes on the prize in honor of Juneteenth.

A call to action when we’re with our family and friends this year celebrating Juneteenth. Discussions and movement around justice reform, voting rights and equal rights for Black people.

What is Juneteenth and why is it celebrated?

Juneteenth comes with so much anticipation this year after Netflix’s top-rated docu-series, High On The Hog, introduced us to Juneteenth food, facts and history from the gatekeepers themselves protecting the legacies of African-American communities.

The series engages the folks around the open fire pit, slowly watching and nurturing the homegrown vegetables and meat used in the stew.

With their hand on the sacred urn of tradition, these are the ones vowing to protect and preserve Black culture and generations of blessed soul food recipes.

Netflix High On The Hog – Stephen Satterfield and Dr. Jessica B. Harris (photo credit – Netflix)

What is the history of Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is the African-American celebration of the emancipation of slaves. 

Why is it called Juneteenth?

As we know, justice is often delayed for the Black community. 

It’s wasn’t until years after freedom was granted that freed slaves learned of their emancipation. This day is June 19th, 1865. Also known as Juneteenth. 

Juneteenth is African-American Independence Day – Our 4th Of July

The Netflix series High On The Hog does a marvelous job of unraveling the complicated story of Juneteenth and freedom delayed. 

The docu-series retraces Juneteenth starting in Galveston, TX. 

When did slavery in Texas end and what was the last state to free slaves?

From the docu-series, I learned that Texas, the Lone Star state was one of the last states to abolish slavery. 

Even worse, those enslaved did not learn of their freedom until- 2 ½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation was announced in 1863!

Moody National Bank Galveston, TX (photo credit – Business Wire)

Texas roots

I remember visiting Galveston and marveling at the financial institutions and establishments with the name Moody, like the area’s chain of banks – Moody National Bank. (Moody is my maiden name.)

I thought to myself that maybe I come from a wealthy lineage of Moodys in Texas.

But that kind of thinking was blissful and all wrong.

Without any genealogy records to tell me, my ancestors were likely Texas slaves, owned by families with the Moody surname.

As free people, my ancestors must’ve migrated southeast to North Carolina. In this state, my grandparents were born and raised.

Maybe I am a Moody descendant of Texas, but not in the fairytale story kind of way.

I’m likely a daughter of those enslaved who built Galveston for free.

“The limitations that are put on us by people’s framing of what Black hands can do is exhausting. But it doesn’t stop the work, and it doesn’t hinder my freedom because I have the ownership of knowledge.” —Chef Chris Williams, owner of Lucille’s

Jerrelle Guy’s Raw Raspberry Hibiscus Cheesecake

Netflix High On The Hog Episode 4- Freedom

High On The Hog uncovers the history of Juneteenth and how it’s celebrated through its culinary expressions. The soul food appeal and why each cultural dish is so special. 

In my creator’s opinion, they appropriately start with acclaimed food blogger and award-winning cookbook author Jerrelle Guy, author of Black Girl Baking. 

Jerelle explains the significance behind each dessert in her Juneteenth-inspired spread, and why each flavoring is an intricate part of the celebration.

I was touched by how Jerrelle emotionally explained that she bakes for self-expression. 

Baking is how she breaks away from rules and creates her own empowerment. Her own freedom. A feeling she wants every Black woman to know. 

Jerrelle’s cooking style is described as super heart-centered.

“When you understand your history and understand where you come from, that understanding gives you purpose. And the purpose to carry on their story I think is such a huge honor.” —Jerrelle Guy

Jerrelle Guy’s Juneteenth-inspired cakes

Black Girl Baking dessert menu – an ode to Juneteenth 

Juneteenth decorations in Galveston incorporate lots of red and bright colors. 

Raw raspberry hibiscus cheesecake 

Jerrelle infuses hibiscus for the bright color of the cake, along with the red raspberries on top. 

It’s a cake of various textures and temperatures. A mix of cashews and hibiscus and a hardened chocolate ganache drizzled over a chilled cheesecake.

Apple pie cooked with brown butter and almond flour

Jerrelle tells how Black cooks in the south used to bake with almond flour because they didn’t have access to traditional flour, resulting in a much-desired softer baked dish.

This story is yet another classic example of how African-American traditions of being resourceful out of necessity have evolved into cultural phenoms, like what we know today as the culinary delicacy, soul food! 

Soul food as a whole comes from what was once someone else’s trash that Black people made a treasure. 

These treasures are now more expensive than the items they were fashioned after! It’s important to note that this often occurs without credit to its rightful Black creator. 

Juneteenth-inspired southern apple pie with almond crust

“We’re the innovators of everything that’s beautiful and everything that’s pop culture right now that’s born out of this country that’s born out of us. And it’s taken, and it’s monetized and white-washed and sent out all over the globe. And still, it’s ours.” —Chef Chris Williams

Case in point with Jerrelle’s Juneteenth-significant ingredient almond flour. Today almond flour is priced 3-4 times higher than all-purpose flour and is sold in size two-thirds smaller than the all-purpose version! 

But as author Toni Tipton-Martin points out in her cookbook, Jubilee, African-American food isn’t just now being elevated. 

Our cooking has always been expansive since its inception centuries ago!

When we look back, our work has always been valued in the broader community. Tipton-Martin so eloquently points out that “our faces were put on packages as a symbol of quality.”

“When it comes to culture in America, there’s very little we didn’t influence.” —Stephen Satterfield, High On The Hog docu-series host

Jerrelle Guy’s 4-Layer Red Velvet Cake

4-layer red velvet cake

Is there a Juneteenth flag?

Jerrelle’s show-stopping cake was referred to around the table as the Juneteenth flag because of its beautiful red layers!

Jerrrelle used beets to achieve the red coloring and then spread each layer with maple cream cheese frosting.

There were many compliments to the chef for her complex mash-up of savory and sweet combining earthy beets with maple flavor!

“Our legacy isn’t found in statues or history books. It lives on in the people who guard the gates of our culture.” —Stephen Satterfield

What are the colors of Juneteenth?

What’s the significance of the color red in Juneteenth traditions?

Red is the prominent color of Juneteenth celebrations to recognize the bloodshed and honor the lives of our ancestors pre-emancipation, who never got the chance to taste the freedoms we savor today. 

“We nourished a nation through our cooking and baked our traditions in the cuisines that would define America.” —Stephen Satterfield

I’m sharing these High On The Hog and Juneteenth-inspired food and recipes to help you create a menu with cultural relevance for your family and friends.

How do you honor Juneteenth and what do people do to celebrate?

We honor Juneteenth by never forgetting the strength and resilience of Black people and Black excellence. And for this reason, we celebrate. 

We celebrate Juneteenth and our African-American history with our food.

In the words of  Toni Tipton-Martin “I am using my platform to draw attention to Black excellence.”

Enjoy!

“The entire passion that I have about this is to use food as a tool to elevate the conversation about what it means to be African-American and to cook African-American food… It’s a celebration. We’re celebrating our food!” —Toni Tipton-Martin

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