Juneteenth Made Federal Holiday, But Room for Progress Remains
Friday, June 18, 2021
ITHACA, N.Y. -- Legislation declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday is now law, after President Joe Biden signed a ball Thursday approved by Congress.
Black Emancipation Day commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. While that's historic, forces of oppression still are at work.
This year, multiple states approved bills that limit voting opportunities in Black communities and prohibit schools from teaching about the country's legacy of racism.
Kevin Matthews II, author, former financial advisor, and founder of a href="https://buildingbread.com" target="_blank">BuildingBread said in an interview with YES! Media making Juneteenth an official holiday is a nice gesture, but white supremacy still limits racial progress.
"Any time that people of color in this country have significant progress, there is almost always a swift reaction from those who are still in power or those who benefited from oppressing others," Matthews explained.
Momentum for the federal legislation followed the Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd last year. Juneteenth was made an official public holiday in the state of New York last October.
Tim Wise, an anti-racism educator, also spoke with YES! Media. Wise is the author of "Dispatches from the Race War" and said his own family tree revealed slave owners, who handed down documents that showed their lack of compassion when writing about the buying and selling of slaves.
Tim Wise, author and anti-racism educator, also spoke with YES! Media. Wise wrote "White Like Me," and "Dispatches from the Race War." He said his own family tree revealed slave owners, who handed down documents that showed their lack of compassion when writing about the buying and selling of enslaved people.
"And I think we need to grapple with that, because we may not literally pass down human beings anymore, thank God, but we pass down the mentality that made the selling of human beings possible," Wise remarked.
A celebration of emancipation started in Galveston, Texas, after news that slaves had been freed by President Abraham Lincoln reached the community, two years after it was known in other parts of the country.
In the Southern Tier, Tompkins County has been celebrating Juneteenth this whole week. Friday at 6:00 p.m., "A Juneteenth Play" prepared by County Historian Carol Kammen and Legislature Chairwoman Leslyn McBean-Clairborne depicts the events surrounding the Emancipation Proclamation.
McBean-Clairborne said she's in support of Juneteenth becoming a national holiday.
"To be able to acknowledge that people were enslaved in this country, to make it real to everyone, we need to give it as much value as we give to so many holidays in this country," McBean-Clairborne stated.
A link to the livestream can be found at tompkinscountyny.gov.
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