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Observing Juneteenth During this Historic Moment

By Michelle Basham, YWCA Minneapolis President and CEO
June 19, 2020
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June 19, 2020

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free,” as stated the Emancipation Proclamation and announced on June 19, 1865. Today, Juneteenth, popularly known as the end of slavery, is a holiday or special day of observance in 45 of our 50 states. It commemorates this moment in history when news of emancipation finally reached enslaved people in the most entrenched parts of the former Confederacy, two and a half years after slavery had been abolished.

Writer P.R. Lockhart observed Juneteenth as a symbol of how freedom in the U.S. has always been delayed for Black people. Even when the laws are changed, liberty and justice do not come easily or quickly. Lockhart writes, “The decades after the end of the Civil War would see a wave of lynching, imprisonment and Jim Crow laws take root. What followed was the disproportionate impact of mass incarceration, discriminatory housing policies and a lack of economic investment.” And in some instances, there were active retaliations against Black wealth, growth and success.

One grim case is the massacre of “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921, where mobs of white people killed over 300 Black residents, left 9,000 people homeless and set fire to 1,200 buildings in one of the most prosperous Black neighborhoods in the country. And no one was held accountable. This horrific attack, brought to the forefront this week, follows protests demanding justice and policing reform after the murder of George Floyd and countless other Black men and women by police officers.

It is important to know our shared history as a country and in our local communities. Much of the racism of yesterday still reverberates today and will continue unless we acknowledge it, take action to repair the harm that was done and build a brighter future together.

Together, we must continue to do the work to dismantle systemic and institutional racism found in all spaces and ensure equal justice under the law. YWCA Minneapolis is joining local and national organizations committed to action and police accountability legislation, including Goodwill-Easter SealsPOCI and YWCA USA.

YWCA Minneapolis is hosting a virtual candlelight vigil, June 30 at 7:00 pm, to give space to honor the grief and trauma that events like the murder of George Floyd have on our communities. We will hear from community leaders and artists as we come together to collectively heal. This community vigil is created in partnership with YWCA Saint Paul, YWCA Mankato and YWCA Duluth as we advance our shared mission of eliminating racism. Stay tuned for more details on how to join us.

What You Can Do Today:

Thank you for being a part of our movement for change. Together, we will continue to advance our mission to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.