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After Juneteenth, We Must Remain Vigilant

June 22, 2022 State Senator Kevin Parker
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Two years after Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, those words of freedom were slow to reach the far southern state of Texas; June 19, 1865 marks the date Union forces reached Texas and emancipated enslaved African-Americans, and as such, presumptively ended slavery in the United States.

In 2020 I was one of the first lawmakers in the country to pass a “Juneteenth” bill into law, marking June 19th as a state holiday. Since then municipalities and states across the country have passed similar legislation. While it was an important moment for myself, and millions of other New Yorkers, the symbolism wrapped up in the idea of Juneteenth holiday is equally as important.

After of the passage of my Juneteenth bill into law I remarked that “this bill is an acknowledgement of this historical date, and it serves not as an annual reprimand of this country’s flaws, but as a memorial for those who fought and died to end enslavement in this country, and a memorial for those who, having never experienced freedom, lived and died in bondage.”

These words ring even truer today. Even with President Biden and a Democratic wave following the dark and tumultuous Trump presidency, recent events have shown that the information regarding the emancipation and empowerment of black Americans hasn’t reached into every household and heart across this country.

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We all watched in horror as a gunman walked into a food store in Buffalo with the intent to kill Black americans. All across this country there are daily and weekly events that aren’t becoming all-too-familiar, but are really a continuation of a long-standing hostility towards Black Americans.

As a black man growing up in Brooklyn I have lived my entire life facing micro-aggressions, profiling, unequal pay, and much more. On some level, it is the American way. So for myself, the Juneteenth bill, the school renamings, statue removals, and similar efforts are just so important to rewriting American history to reflect the systemic failures and abuse Black Americans have faced since the day we were brought to this land.

The institution of slavery, the great scar of this nation, must be faced before America can ever be made whole. The Juneteenth holiday is meant for us to engage in the difficult task of self-reflection, so that we may truly acknowledge our nation’s history in order to move towards a brighter future. Will you and your family join us this Juneteenth to remember those who fought for our freedoms, and dedicate your time left on this earth towards building a better future for the next generation of Black Americans?

State Senator Kevin Parker represents the 21st Senatorial District located in Brooklyn, New York

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