One hundred and fifty-six years ago today, the Union army issued a proclamation in Galveston, Texas declaring that all those in Texas who had been previously enslaved were now free. Today, we celebrate Juneteenth, a remembrance day of liberation for the descendants of enslaved Black people — and honor the ongoing struggle for freedom for all Black people.

It remains as important as ever to listen and learn from Black leaders who have been leading these fights for generations and who continue this fight for true freedom. We were honored to join our friends and partners in Tulsa, Oklahoma in their commemoration of the 100-year anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre We are always inspired and humbled by the leadership of the Terence Crutcher Foundation and others who centered the commemoration around the survivors who were so horrifically attacked and traumatized, and whose thriving community was destroyed by a white supremacist mob, and the descendants left to pick up the pieces and fight for justice and dignity for their ancestors. Their demands and calls for justice ring true in the ongoing fight for Black liberation. 

In our work, we strive to combat the discriminatory racial disparities that harm Black people at every point of contact in the criminal justice system. From contact with the system to arrest to jailing to sentencing to imprisonment to the collateral consequences of a conviction, Black people are disproportionately harmed by mass incarceration. Through our failed immigration system, the United States arrests, detains, deports and expels Black immigrants and asylum seekers to countries where they are subjected to being tortured, enslaved, and killed.

This year, on a day celebrating freedom, we will think about those who came home from jails, prisons, and detention centers — and how not nearly enough were able to do so, despite the ravages of COVID-19. Across the criminal justice and immigration systems, Black people are more likely to be stopped, searched, and killed by law enforcement, as well as arrested, jailed, convicted, and sentenced to prison. This year, we have seen deep reform signed into law in Mississippi to help to reduce extreme sentences — and a reminder that the work of securing justice and freedom is a daily effort. And for those carrying part of this work every day, we are proud to continue to stand with our partners at the Black Immigrants Bail Fund and the Mississippi Bail Fund Collective.

If the legislation signed into law this week declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday truly comes as part of a movement to more accurately reflect upon the role of nearly 250 years of enslavement has had on America, it is critical to acknowledge the new wave we are seeing of denying the harms and role that slavery played in our history and the daily traumas its legacies inflict upon Black people today. 

From the memorials of the Confederacy through statues and buildings to inequalities created by structural racism in education and wealth, to the horrible and disparate impact of COVID-19, to the systems and policies created by our government, a true accounting of the past is the only pathway to true Black liberation. We celebrate Juneteenth holding on to this truth and continue our commitment to disrupt the systems that perpetuate harm against Black people.