Yesterday President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, which establishes June 19, or Juneteenth, as a new federal holiday–an incredibly powerful acknowledgment of movement toward the right side of history. It is a chance for us to pause and acknowledge what was and what still is. It is not a day for commercialized celebration, but it is a day to celebrate how far we have come and recognize that we have far to go.
Juneteenth is a day marking what happened on June 19th, 1865. Contrary to popular media, it wasn’t the end of slavery in America. It was the day that the enslaved people of Galveston, Texas, claimed their freedom a full two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in the confederacy. 156 years ago was a small step toward the freedom of enslaved people, but it was not the end of slavery in America.
The impact of slavery is still alive and thriving. This week Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed one of his party’s top legislative priorities into law: a bill to stop teachers from talking about racism (critical race theory) and any current events that may be contentious. The impact of slavery can be seen daily in poverty statistics, police brutality, incarceration numbers, voting, resources, access to education, healthcare discrimination, mutual aid efforts, and so much more. Today is a day to celebrate, but it is not the end of slavery in America.
We hope that this change will be more than a symbolic victory, but we know that it takes every single one of us to make that hope come true. We commit to working together to make this a material change for not just this generation but for every generation to come.