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Juneteenth and Reparations

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 Rena Black

The commemoration of Juneteenth, which acknowledges the end of slavery, takes place on June 19th. It has been a great first step in America’s reckoning with its past. Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021, when President Biden signed into law the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. It’s worth noting that the law was signed after the brutal and inhumane modern-day lynching of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. The murder led to widespread demonstrations and protests which shed light on the prevalent racial injustice and inequalities that impact many black people. 

Lingering effects of slavery still have a huge impact on Black families today, especially economically.  On February 29th, 2024, Governor Kathy Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Carl Heastie announced the appointment of nine distinguished individuals to serve on the New York State Community Commission on Reparations Remedies. They are tasked with analyzing inequities experienced by Black Americans experiences and move forward with policy proposals to address these inequalities impacting various aspects of their lives. (Jr., 2024)

When the red, black and green flag colors fly on Juneteenth, Black people across the United States will commune together to commemorate the day African American slaves were emancipated after 400 years of oppression on American soil.  Black communities across the globe will commune together at BBQ’s, community events and centers to be together. When Black people get together, it is always in protest the ways we have been driven apart. Finding the opportunities to converse with each other about our lives, family, job or that incident that happened a couple of days ago is our way of healing, and retelling history written against us that we thrive, especially when the odds are stacked against us. This Juneteenth, I pray that we make plans to commune again, that we discuss how slave emancipation does not stop at ending physical bondage but mental, emotional, financial and social bondage too. Black Americans in the 21st century have an opportunity to excel together, where we are stronger. 

Let’s continue to acknowledge the past while taking actionable steps to ensure that policy includes tangible ways for black communities to receive reparations.  

Juneteenth should not just be about commemorating the emancipation of slaves in America, but also about meaningful change to address racial inequality in the United States. 

 Jr., J. S. (2024, February 29). New York Takes historic step: Reparations commission announced. NYSenate.gov.https://www.nysenate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2024/james-sanders-jr/new-york-takes-historic-step-reparations-commission 

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