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In Your Opinion: Juneteenth Celebration Must Be On Actual Day


By Jasmin Harrison, Braun Wright, Ta-leia Newsom, and Yasmin St Rose.

We greet you in the name of the Most High and our honored Ancestors.

“This is for the people in general, and Black people in particular.”

There is an amassing devastation that the Black community faces, that the world bears witness to on a daily basis. A devastation that has sparked an outcry from all walks of life for justice and equality. From the horrific chokehold of George Floyd, to the senseless murder of Breonna Taylor, and the recent passing of a Civil Rights icon, the Honorable Congressman John Robert Lewis, it is safe to say that 2020 is not only another year of losses for our community but a year of intense protest and change.

In light of the current ethical climate, Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, representing the 15th District of New Jersey, is pursuing a bill (A4315) ) to honor Juneteenth as a publicly statewide-recognized holiday to be observed on the third Friday of June. A bill that piggybacks off of former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s Juneteenth Proclamation signed on June 12, 2012, declaring “Juneteenth Independence Day” celebrated on the third (3rd) Saturday of June. Though the gesture is honorable, Juneteenth cannot be diminished for the sake of commerce, which would degrade/demean the significance of what Juneteenth represents to the Black community and the nation as a whole.

 Juneteenth, also called “Jubilee Day”, is the oldest nationwide commemoration and celebration of the end of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth, short for the date “June Nineteenth,” marks the day that Union General Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation that had been signed two years prior, ensuring that those still enslaved would be freed. It marks the actual date when every American was freed.

New Jersey does not have the cleanest record when it comes to civil rights and equality. New Jersey was the last Northern state to abolish Slavery in 1864 and initially rejected the 13th Amendment in 1865. Yet as a state, New Jersey has grown, diversified and ultimately become the first Northern state to issue a state apology for its participation in slavery in 2008. With that progress, it behooves the Black community to ask why Assemblywoman Reynolds-Jackson would choose to continue to disregard the significance of Jubilee Day, and simply reheat the leftovers from the previous administration.

The community knows Juneteenth already has a date – JUNE 19TH. Recognizing and respecting the historical importance should be the priority of our leadership. The date should not be changed with each passing year. Likewise, companies should not impede on an employees’ ability to celebrate. If it is truly a day to celebrate independence, why not give it the proper acknowledgement like July 4th? Every country that has achieved independence from an overreaching regime prides themselves on the day of independence. There is no debate on when said independence is acknowledged because society collectively agrees upon the historical context, therefore July 4th is recognized on a federal and state level as the day the United States gained independence from Great Britain.

For Juneteenth, however, there’s a disconnect. For some, Juneteenth sparks pride, joy and hope whereas to others there’s shame, indifference, even anger. That disconnect reflects America’s inability to reconcile with its greatest shame, and further exemplifies the need to acknowledge Juneteenth for the day that it stands for. If Juneteenth becomes simply the 3rd Friday in June, then it is no longer Juneteenth, but rather a fixed vacation day on a calendar year. It dilutes and undermines the historical significance.

As we look to the future of this country, we ask you, is the United States really ready to take accountability for its greatest crime? Is New Jersey ready to do what is right and give the Black community and those who came before well deserved respect? Until the United States and New Jersey is willing to do right by her people, specifically Black people, this country and her states will always be DIVIDED. Please sign our petition, New Jersey: June 19th is Juneteenthto make the New Jersey State Legislature change their proposed date of the 3rd Friday of June to celebrate Juneteenth to the actual date of the event which is and will always be June 19th. If you are in agreement with this statement, please sign your name and share this petition with your friends, family and the State Legislature.

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