ST. LOUIS — “You know, waiting two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation for freedom? I mean, waiting in line is nothing,” said Patrick Cruitt, who waited for nearly two hours for his Juneteenth purchases from La Patisserie Chouquette on Friday.
“It is unimaginable that it took that long for them to get that message,” said Latrina Hopton, who came to the Botanical Heights bakery from Normandy.
Hopton agrees she could be talking about both the notice in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865 — that the slaves had been freed two and a half years earlier — and about those finally coming around to celebrate it in 2020.
“I think it's awesome that the message is getting out more, and that we do need to recognize other cultures, especially African American,” she said. “Things that are important to us and things that we celebrate and that we recognize because it has been suppressed for so long that even we are educating our own young people about what it is and what it was about.”
Executive pastry chef and bakery owner Simone Faure has always been busy on Juneneenth, where she offers traditional sweets — red velvet cake, hibiscus tea and other red items to symbolize bloodshed and resilience, as well as southern delicacies — that she aims to serve up with a history lesson. Even with the celebration shifting curbside this year, this crowd is hungry for it.
“I’m excited to share with my kids and make Juneteenth a big deal because we have the opportunity to celebrate freedom for our entire country,” said Elise Sprenger from Maryville as her kids listened to an audio book about Black history. “I think there are a lot of people more interested in listening and listening to voices that haven’t been heard as much in the past.”
In some ways the event is bigger than ever this year, with Expedition SubSahara, a company that sells African woven baskets, hosting a pop-up outside of the bakery. A portion of proceeds from those and bakery sales will go to to ArchCity Defenders and Black Lives Matter.
“I think she just wanted it to be bigger and celebrate this thing, which is the ending of slavery, but even after the ending of slavery there’s such a long way to go,” said Sofi Seck, who owns Expedition SubSahara. “There’s so many injustices still today and I think she wants to both celebrate and also recognize that we’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go.”
For some, it’s their first taste of the holiday.
“You know, waking up today, [I thought] ‘What can I do to advance the cause of racial justice today?’ One of those things was supporting a Black-owned business,” said Cruitt, who said he’s always been aware of Juneteenth but has decided, from here on out, he must consciously do something to celebrate it. “It's not always going to be the hard things but also those little everyday things that just form those habits to help support that cause."
Those who've commemorated the day for years say there's room at this table anyone open to taking a seat and having a conversation.
"I think it's awesome people are opening up and seeing more," said Hopton.
That includes the predominantly white crowd gathered outside the bakery.
“I think it’s great, I think the only people who can dismantle is the people who created the system to begin with and with more and more people understanding or maybe getting more educating on the problems that the system has created and all the injustices that anyone who looks like me has to go through every single day,” said Seck, “then they can wake up and say hey, we created this system, and now it’s time to dismantle it and create a new one that is equal for all because we’re all American citizens and we all deserve the same equal opportunity from birth.”
You can hear from executive pastry chef and bakery owner Simone Faure in the latest episode of the Abby Eats St. Louis podcast. Abby spoke with Faure extensively about Juneteenth, what it means to support Black-owned businesses, how the right meal can nourish our stomachs and our souls. Abby Eats St. Louis is available for free on all major podcast platforms and services.