Juneteenth: the Reason & the Reality 1

Written by Dawn Daniels McNear

Many people ask, “What is Juneteenth? What’s wrong with the Fourth of July? Why does everything have to be about separation? Can’t we all just get along?” The quick answers are African-American Freedom Day, everything and nothing, it’s not and yes, but it takes everyone being invested in diversity, equity and inclusion.

My upbringing was very diverse. I grew up in a predominantly African-American neighborhood, attended racially diverse schools, and never felt that I stood out as an African American until I got to my predominantly white university. I majored in Cultural Anthropology, Sociology and Black World Studies, but I don’t remember Juneteenth ever being taught.

I learned that Independence Day was for white Americans, because in 1776, African Americans were still considered property with no rights.

I always knew that July 4th wasn’t for “us” (African Americans), but I didn’t know what “our” replacement holiday was. As a young child, I remember there being many different fireworks shows. African Americans watched in the park (in a predominantly African-American neighborhood, and white people watched from their individual suburbs. I vividly remember 1976 and all the celebrations related to the United States’ 200th year of freedom. Every ad, every billboard, every label showed white people in celebration for this anniversary. I didn’t
know any black person who was excited about July 4, 1976.

I learned that Independence Day was for white Americans, because in 1776, African Americans were still considered property with no rights. But, being a good American citizen, I celebrated the fourth of July like every other American; hot dogs, fireworks and a day off work.

Juneteenth: the Reason & the Reality 2
Juneteenth flag: American Red, White and Blue with
the Texas star and a “new” bursting star to celebrate freedom.

Independence Day for African Americans: June 19, 1865

As an adult, I learned that Juneteenth, a mash-up of the words June and nineteenth, was Independence Day for African Americans. Juneteenth commemorates the day (June 19,1865), in Galveston, Texas, that Union General Gordon Granger with 2,000 troops read the federal orders proclaiming that all enslaved people were free. The reading came a full 2 ½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. News didn’t travel fast back then, and slave masters were in no rush to release their free labor. Slave masters actively suppressed news of the emancipation in Confederate territories that were not under Union control.

I can’t even begin to understand the collective feelings of joy, fear, disbelief, and freedom. What followed the reading of the federal orders is now called “the scatter.” African Americans left their enslavement and “scattered” throughout the United States looking for family members. My ancestors left Mississippi and scattered to Colorado, Kansas and Illinois. It tickles me to know that some slaves started “the scatter” before General Granger even finished reading the federal order.

It makes sense to me that every American should want to celebrate the day when EVERY AMERICAN was free. That day would be June 19th.

I know many people will ask “Why don’t we all just celebrate the Fourth of July? It’s already a tradition, and everyone loves it?” I would retort with “Everything that’s a tradition is not good and upwards of 13% of the US population (2010 US Census) was not free in 1776. It makes sense to me that every American should want to celebrate the day when EVERY AMERICAN was free. That day would be June 19th .

July 4th and June 19th

When we celebrate July 4th, Independence Day, we are celebrating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. That document declared that the 13 colonies were no longer subject to the British monarch. The Emancipation Proclamation was signed 87 years later, and it took 2 ½ additional years for all enslaved peoples to be freed. I don’t think that we need to get rid of one celebration to enjoy the other; we need to give room and acknowledgement for the importance of each day.

I don’t think that we need to get rid of one celebration to enjoy the other; we need to give room and acknowledgement for the importance of each day.

This year (2020), it feels more important than ever for my family and I to celebrate Juneteenth. Every day in Southwest Georgia I see remnants of these “traditions,” and I don’t love them! It’s a slap in the face to see confederate flags, streets and buildings named after known slave masters and to have someone paint a confederate flag on my daughter’s cheek as part of a face painting activity at a street fair.

In Germany today you will not find a single public statue lauding Adolph Hitler. The government recognizes that 1) They lost the war and 2) Any adoration of a figure who hurt and killed so many of their citizens is heartless and hurtful. I remind people that the south DID NOT WIN the war! Why are we celebrating the losing side and throwing it up in the face of our citizens who are descendants of slavery? It’s heartless and hurtful.

Celebrating Juneteenth

Juneteenth is not a Federal holiday, but in recent years many corporations have begun celebrating their African American employees by recognizing June 19th as a corporate holiday. A few of these corporations are Google, Habitat for Humanity International, JC Penny, Nike, NFL, The New York Times, Target,Twitter and Vox Media. Although Juneteenth is not a national holiday it is celebrated in most metropolitan cities with parades, rodeos, cookouts, street fairs, prayer services, fireworks and family gatherings.

Juneteenth Celebrations Generally Include:

  • Singing of the Black National Anthem
  • Recognition of the Juneteenth flag
  • Drinking of Red soda (recipe below)
  • Eating Red Velvet Cake, watermelon, and Marcus Garvey Bean Salad (mixture of red, black and green beans)
  • Barbecues and family get togethers

Red Foods Served on Juneteenth

The eating of red food items is thought to be in recognition of West African cultures, where red is a symbol of strength and spirituality.

The color red also symbolizes the blood of millions of enslaved people who suffered and died. The red soda was initially made with strawberries, hibiscus and kola nuts. Red soda is now a common staple at Juneteenth celebrations.

I pray that everyone stay safe, enjoy your loved ones and celebrate Juneteenth with the knowledge that America has come a long way but there’s still a long way to go. Happy Juneteenth!!!

Juneteenth: the Reason & the Reality 3

Strawberry Ginger Ale Recipe

Red soda is now a common staple at Juneteenth celebrations. Here’s a recipe for Strawberry Ginger Ale:


  • 2 ounces chopped peeled ginger
  • 8 ounces fresh strawberries chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 12 oz sugar
  • About 1-quart chilled club soda


  • Combine water and sugar and over medium heat bring to a boil; stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved.
  • Add ginger and strawberries. Simmer for 10 minutes then remove from heat cover and let steep for 1 hour.
  • Strain mixture through a sieve into a bowl, pressing on strawberries and ginger and then discarding.
  • Chill syrup in a covered bowl or jar until cold.
  • Mix syrup with club soda to taste (start with ¼ cup syrup per ¾ cup club soda, then adjust to taste).

About the Author

Dawn Daniels McNear is an Americus-based friend of Café Campesino.  She moved to Americus 13 years ago with her husband and 3 children to continue her work with Habitat for Humanity. She approaches life with humor and radical candor. Her life motto is “If you don’t like me that’s okay, get in line with the others. Life is to short to let people who don’t matter, matter!

Smiling customers pose for a photo after a coffee training class.

Words by Christy Deen. Images courtesy of Drip-Thru Coffee®

Training is a key process in any company that wants to maintain mastery in its field, and companies in the coffee industry are no different. On-going training is important for staff development, product consistency and empowering a team to rock this third wave of coffee.

Drip-Thru Coffee® has and continually partners with Cafe Campesino’s Coffee Training Lab to fulfill these training goals. My husband and I successfully completed the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA)’s Barista Level One certification with the Coffee Training Lab before opening our first Drip-Thru Coffee® location.

Coffee Training Lab instructor helps student pour milk into mug.

Employees at both our locations have completed Espresso & Milk 101 with Hannah Mercer, an authorized SCA trainer and education coordinator for Cafe Campesino and its sister roastery in Florida, Sweetwater Organic Coffee.

Most recently, we took several baristas to a latte art class at the Coffee Training Lab in Americus, Ga., at Cafe Campesino. It was a great way to step back from the daily grind (“ha ha”) at the shop and really focus on the craft and knowledge behind creating latte art.

the main takeaway for our staff is to never stop learning. There is so much knowledge in the world to gain!

Christy Deen, co-owner of Drip-Thru Coffee®
smiling barista shows off his latte art

Fun was had by all, and in addition to learning about latte art, the main takeaway for our staff is to never stop learning. There is so much knowledge in the world to gain!

Whether you are a coffee enthusiast, barista-in-training, or coffee shop entrepreneur, the Coffee Training Lab has something to offer you! Be sure to check them out.

Christy has worked for over 20 years in the food -and-beverage industry. She’s managed restaurants from the Walt Disney World Theme Parks to the Atlanta airport. She and her husband Martin opened their first location of Drip-Thru Coffee® in Stockbridge, Ga., in 2016. Shortly thereafter, they opened a second location in College Park. Drip-Thru Coffee® brings good, fast coffee to Atlanta commuters without compromising quality or service. Learn more about their company at: https://www.dripthrucoffee.com/

As a wholesale customer of Cafe Campesino, Drip-Thru Coffee® receives periodic training that is tailored to its needs. In addition to managing wholesale-customer training, the Coffee Training Lab offers Barista and Brewing classes that are a part of the Specialty Coffee Association‘s Coffee Skills Program . The Lab’s 2020 SCA classes have recently been listed online. Visit: www.coffeetraininglab.com for dates and locations.

PeachDish supports farmers.

Atlanta meal kit service puts sustainable farmers & food first.

PeachDish, a national meal kit service based in Atlanta, exists to enrich and nourish lives through good food. They have high standards. They are an industry leader in quality, creativity and customer service. They’re also building transparent, innovative, and wholesome food systems.  Every day, PeachDish strives to bring the best, sustainably-grown food to an audience that cares.

Better Farming means Better Food

President Judith Winfrey came to PeachDish with over a decade of sustainable agriculture experience. Therefore, she knows that nutrient-dense, organic food can make a difference in our bodies and our lives. Plus, she knows that good farming practices can benefit the environment. When we eat food that is grown with care and attention – without being doused in chemical inputs (fertilizers and pesticides) – we are showing that same care and attention to ourselves and our planet.

Judith Winfrey and Joe Reynolds examine a new crop of lettuce in the evening sun.
Joe Reynolds and Judith Winfrey at Love is Love Farm, a sustainable, Atlanta-based farm supplying PeachDish.

As a result, this positivity resonates through our lives and our community.  We’re more alive, more whole, more in-tune, more responsive, more available.  In short, we’re better people when we eat better food. This may sound too simplistic or pollyannaish to you. But think about it this way: food is the only thing we ever buy that literally becomes who we are.  It provides the building blocks for everything we are: our brain, our eyes, our skin, our muscles and our hearts.

Sustainable Farms Showcased at PeachDish

A farmer drops off produce at the PeachDish warehouse Monday morning, and it’s packed to go out that afternoon. When you have better ingredients, you cook better, eat better and live better. Understanding your food, from seed to table, is the best way to integrate nutrition and wellness throughout your life.

We’re proud that PeachDish includes Cafe Campesino in its meal kit options and also sources ingredients from other farmers and artisans we respect and admire. Farms like Love is Love Farm, Rise ‘N Shine, Urban Sprouts, Decimal Place Farm, and businesses like Beautiful Briny Sea and more.

Like us, PeachDish sources from businesses that are working to make positive social impact. We could not be prouder to work with them. And we consider them an ally in the good-food movement.

Learn more about PeachDish, or take the plunge! Order a meal kit produced by some of the South’s most sustainable farmers.

A couple follows a PeachDish recipe, cutting tomatoes and preparing other vegetables to cook for a meal.
Support the South’s leading sustainable farms and businesses by preparing PeachDish meals at home.
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Richland Distilling Company is located in Richland, GA. The owners Erik and Karin Vonk and master distiller Jay McCain are helping put Richland on the map by making authentic, quality products. Garden and Gun calls Richland Rum “the smooth amber liquid that had brought new life to this town.” It is a family-owned business and makes Richland Rum exclusively.

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White Oak Pastures: Grass-fed Georgia Livestock 5

We believe White Oak Pastures is a gem in Southwest Georgia, and we are so thrilled to have them featured on this year’s Southwest Georgia Tour de Farm. Primarily a livestock farm and processing facility, White Oak Pastures stands out nationally for its sustainable farming practices and commitment to land stewardship, animal husbandry and organics. Plus, the folks who work there are just so darn innovative, creative and committed to doing the right thing for their community, the land they live on and the animals that feed them.

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