Outdoor Afro asks America to commemorate Juneteenth 2024 by visiting local waterways with family, friends

What’s that one place of peace for you in nature? Specifically those local waterways of joy and tranquility? During Outdoor Afro’s fourth annual Juneteenth 2024 commemoration, the national not-for-profit organization encourages U.S. communities to plan visits to those special shoreline lakes, swimming holes, and familiar streamlets to strengthen connections to neighborhood water sources. “This year’s Juneteenth commemoration will continue to reflect, educate, and reconnect about the significance of this day,” said Outdoor Afro Founder and CEO Rue Mapp. “Outdoor Afro will also elevate both conversations and actions about local waterways to reach a new generation of confident swimmers, explorers, and conservationists.” The organization is revisiting its theme “Freedom to Access Water” on June 19.


Outdoor Afro’s only ask: Spend 2.5 hours at a water site that you enjoy individually or with family and friends. This number of hours represents the number of years that freedom delayed for 250,000 enslaved Black Americans in Galveston, Texas. The news of freedom didn’t make it to the coastal city until June 19, 1865 – 2.5 years after the Emancipation Proclamation (signed Jan. 1, 1863) went into effect. “It’s important to remember that the federal holiday isn’t a celebration but a ‘commemoration’ to remember what it meant for Black Americans in Galveston, Texas, to realize their additional years of enslavement long after slavery had been officially abolished,” Mapp said. “Today, Juneteenth at Outdoor Afro is an invitation for everyone to reflect on the value of freedom for all.” The observance day also launches Outdoor Afro’s sixth annual Making Waves program, which teaches Black kids and caregivers within its sphere of influence how to swim. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black children drown at a rate more than 8 times that of their white peers. This statistic ties to the historic prohibition of Black entry onto public beaches and into public pools. Making Waves’ Swimmerships (swim lesson scholarships) offer a series of beginner swim sessions – typically four to eight classes – funded by Outdoor Afro and in collaboration with select U.S. swim providers. Officially launching immediately after Juneteenth, Making Waves’ goal is to fund up to 1,200 new swimmers nationwide until the end of the year. “In addition to the urgency to save lives, we know that if a child does not know how to swim, they won’t cast a pole in a lazy lake, ease into a tippy kayak, or care about the crisis of plastics filling our oceans,” said Mapp. “We are clear that a positive relationship with water starts with learning how to swim. Outdoor Afro is proud to continue to support this endeavor that both our people and planet gravely need.” 

ABOUT OUTDOOR AFRO: Outdoor Afro is a national not-for-profit organization that celebrates and inspires Black connections and leadership in nature. What started as a kitchen table blog by Founder and CEO Rue Mapp in 2009 has since grown into a cutting-edge nationwide organization. Outdoor Afro’s U.S. networks include nearly 100-plus volunteer leaders who guide nature activities in up to 60 cities with network participation reaching 60,000 people annually. Outdoor Afro reconnects Black people to the outdoors through outdoor education, recreation, and conservation. Connect with @outdoorafro on social and visit outdoorafro.org to follow our year-round nature narratives. Illustrations by Dajah Callen.