What it means to the Juniteenth to be an official holiday


RaShelle Davis, a senior policy advisor for Inslee, told a panel of state lawmakers earlier this year that it was very personal for her to make Juneteenth a public holiday.

“I’m a descendant of enslaved people, and Juneteenth is my Independence Day – and it’s Independence Day for all black Americans,” Davis testified during a public hearing. “Our freedom has been denied and later delayed, and we owe it to my ancestors never to forget.”

Washington state recognizes 10 other public holidays: New Years Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, Native American Heritage Day, and Christmas Day.

Karen A. Johnson, the director of the Washington State Office of Equity, last year called on Washington officials to make Juniteenth a state holiday after George Floyd’s assassination by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin sparked global protests.

“Making Juniteenth a state holiday and a national holiday enables us all to begin the journey of healing, reconciliation and transforming this society into a truly anti-racist society,” said Johnson.

Johnson said she read again recently Speech by Frederick Douglass from 1852 on July 4th, on which he spoke of the enslaved people not participating in the freedom brought by the American Revolution. For them, it underscored the importance of celebrating June 10th in addition to July 4th.

“Basically, he said to people who didn’t look like him, ‘Your ancestors died in a war fighting for your freedom that didn’t extend to me and my ancestors,'” Johnson said.

“So the question for me is, ‘Isn’t the blood that the ancestors of black Americans shed just as valuable?'”

“If we can make July 4th a national day when that independence didn’t extend to people who looked like Frederick Douglass, how can we not make a national day of the abolition of slavery in the United States?” Asked Johnson.

The move to honor the Juneteenth met with little opposition from the Washington state legislature this year, but it has met with some criticism.

State Rep. Robert Sutherland, R-Granite Falls, was one of 10 Republican lawmakers who voted no. While a speech in the hallway, Sutherland said that America was not alone in allowing human slavery – “Slavery has been on this planet for eons and that’s just a shame” – but his main objection to the June 16 law was that Costs.

While most government employees will be off, not all agencies will be able to close for the day, which means the state will have to hire replacement workers to keep state prisons, ferries, health facilities, and other operations running around the clock. These replacement workers are expected to cost the state about $ 7.5 million every two years a non-partisan fiscal analysis.

“Seven million dollars, and what is this money going for? Government employees get a paid vacation day, ”Sutherland said. “That doesn’t help the color communities.”

Morgan, the sponsor of the bill, said she drafted the bill not to give workers a paid day off until June 2022, in part to ensure the measure of this year’s response to the COVID-19 crisis does not take away money.

She found that the $ 7.5 million price tag is just a small portion of a two-year state budget totaling $ 59 billion.

“It’s nowhere near the real cost of racial injustice,” Morgan told her colleagues in January.

Lyn Idahosa, executive director of the Federal Way Black Collective, said she believes there is a risk the June holiday could turn into a day when corporate and government employees – most of whom are white – are off while many are black will do this keep working. She said this stems from the over-representation of blacks and people of color in service occupations, as well as the role blacks play in running Juneteenth events and educating others about the importance of the holiday.

To ensure the June holiday is more than just symbolism, the celebrations should go beyond emphasizing the trauma of blacks by focusing on ways to help them directly – for example, by patronizing black businesses or discussing specific steps that can be done to improve the situation of blacks lives.

This week, Idahosa and members of the Federal Way Black Collective held daily events at Federal Way City Hall to discuss issues affecting blacks and how to address them, with the aim of promoting new laws passed by the legislature to implement effectively. These conversations – on topics ranging from early learning to gun violence to mental health – are will be broadcast on Facebook Live and will culminate in a personal event on Saturday at the Federal Way Farmers Market.

“We’re having this weeklong celebration, but it’s dedicated to talking about implementation,” Idahosa said. “Because we’re not done yet.”


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