We Still Have Work To Do!

Opinion Column by Kayla McCray

As we close out the observance of July 4 or Independence Day, mentee Kayla McCray reflects on Juneteenth, Black Independence Day.

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July 5, 2021

We Still Have Work To Do!

With President Biden finally making Juneteenth a federal holiday, it was all over social media with pages dedicating entire posts to this powerful holiday. Even areas like D.C. and New Jersey had events to celebrate. But you may be wondering what Juneteenth is and why it is such a big deal. Considering many African American people have made this holiday their July 4th, it is extremely important that you understand the history of this event, even if it is not a part of your culture. 

Juneteenth was originally celebrated in Texas on June 19, 1866. Although the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 18632  declared freedom of slaves in ten states, most enslaved African Americans in Texas did not learn they were freed until almost three years later. On June 19 in Galveston Bay, Texas, 2,000 Union Troops declared slaves were free by executive decree. This allowed over 250,000 enslaved black people to be free creating the historic day known as Juneteenth. In 1979, Texas became the first and only state to make Juneteenth an official holiday. Fortunately, on June 17, 2021, President Biden made it a national federal holiday.

Although it was a historical day, there was slight outrage amidst the celebrations. Most people are aware of the hundreds of years of oppression that black people have faced in America. From slavery to facing discrimination and microaggressions in the workplace, the black community has had to put up with a lot. Asian hate crimes also spiked to new levels with some connections to the coronavirus, but President Biden quickly created an Anti-Asian Hate Bill.  Many black people will always be excited about Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday but underneath there is also disappointment. We have yet to see an Anti-Black Hate bill even though we have faced levels of oppression unlike other groups. It looks like black people are now good enough to have Juneteenth as a federal holiday, but not good enough to have a bill put in place to protect us. In spite of this progress, just remember we still have work to do!  

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