Statement on the 155th Anniversary of Juneteenth
For Immediate Release
June 19, 2020
Contact: Katherine Levasseur
"The Vermont House today commemorated the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth and recognized our State’s and nation’s continuing struggle for racial equity with House Resolution 21. Juneteenth is a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. It is the anniversary of Union General Gordon Granger’s public reading, in Galveston, Texas, of an order announcing the freedom of all previous enslaved persons in Texas, more than two years after the final issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.
"In 2008, the Vermont General Assembly enacted 1 V.S.A. § 375, designating the third Saturday of June as Juneteenth National Freedom Day in Vermont. The observance of Juneteenth serves as a powerful reminder that the promise of racial equality continues to elude us. We are merely a few generations removed from this powerful day. In the last 155 years, we’ve seen gradual changes - from the striking down of Jim Crow laws to several powerful Supreme Court rulings, from the Civil Rights Movement to the gradual inclusion and elevation of Black people to seats of power across the county.
"But it’s not enough. We need look no further than the recent killings of George Floyd, Eric Garner, Michael Brown Jr., Breonna Taylor, Freddie Carlos Gray Jr., Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many more Black people to know that racism and white supremacy permeate every corner of our communities. The individual acts of violence are horrific. We must be equally horrified at a society that keeps a knee of power on the necks of all Black, Indigenous, and People of Color through systemic racism that permeates our systems of justice, public safety, economic opportunity, education, health care, and social structure. Racial equity cannot be achieved until we rewrite the rules and expectations of our society to elevate Black people, Indigenous people, and all People of Color to the level of inclusion and equality that so many of us take for granted as “normal”.
"This Juneteenth, I think about how it took over two years from the time the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, for people in power to tell the enslaved people in Texas to announce the end of slavery in the United State through a public reading of the Proclamation. That pales in comparison to the fact that since President Lincoln declared "that all persons held as slaves…are and henceforward shall be free”, it is taking at least 157 years and counting, to make freedom and equality a reality for all Americans. I am calling on white allies, friends and colleagues to dig into a messy and uncomfortable space to acknowledge your own place, and participation, in an unjust system and to step outside of the comfort zone protected by privilege to help dismantle systemic racism. I pledge to do better, lead better, and work harder to ensure Vermont is a place where Black, Indigenous, and People of Color have justice and equality."