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Horizontal composition of three glasses of watermelon sodas

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While the country may have just caught on to the fact that Juneteenth is important enough to be designated as a federal holiday, Black folks have known since the 1800s that our liberation is always cause for celebration.

In other words, we’re not new to this, we’re true to this.

But if you’ve never made a practice of celebrating Juneteenth in your own lives, know that there are some pretty beautiful and meaningful traditions associated with the day that the enslaved folks in Galveston, Texas learned that they were free.

In many instances there are fireworks, barbecue and the consumption of red foods and drinks.

According to an article published by the New York Times last year, in celebration of the holiday, red drinks were said to represent the blood of the ancestors who suffered and died under the institution of slavery in this country.

But there is a chance that the tradition’s origins rest in a Yoruba tradition brought from West African nations, including Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Benin and the Democratic of Congo, all the way to Texas.

In his blog Afroculinara, culinary historian Micheal Twitty, in Yoruba and Kongo traditions red represents spiritual power and transformation.

It also has a connection to life and death.

The tradition of consuming red drinks can also be traced back to West Africa, the home of two plants, kola nuts and hibiscus. These plants migrated to the Caribbean and North and South America during the Atlantic slave trade.

These red fruits were used to make bitter or bland drinks sweeter, a perfect metaphor for not only our collective liberation in this country we were forced to build but a symbol of what Black people across the diaspora have been able to do in some of the most heinous and unimaginable circumstances.

If you are participating in a Juneteenth celebration this year, be sure to make it authentic and honor the ancestors with a red drink.

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