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Juneteenth: Honoring the Ongoing Struggle for Freedom

Today, we celebrate Juneteenth and honor the ongoing struggle for freedom. 

On June 19, 1865, Union forces in Galveston, Texas issued a proclamation that all previously enslaved people in Texas were now free. That day is celebrated as Juneteenth, a remembrance day of liberation for the descendants of enslaved people. This Juneteenth, we are inspired by the ongoing movement to realize freedom for all Black people. 

In Mississippi and elsewhere, Black people are more likely to be stopped, searched, and killed by law enforcement, as well as arrested, jailed, convicted, and sentenced to prison.

As we enter this Juneteenth weekend, we celebrate the work of Black Lives Matter chapters across the nation and other movement leaders working to center the voices and demands of Black people who are fighting for their lives. The chorus has never been louder and it’s as important as ever to listen and learn from Black leaders who have been on the front lines of this fight for generations and who carry the torch of their ancestors as they press forward for full emancipation. Our hearts and our solidarity is also with Tulsa, Oklahoma as it enters its centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Massacre and we are humbled by the leadership of the Terence Crutcher Foundation and others holding a sacred space today in Greenwood as they gather to demand, once again, justice and freedom for their communities.  

We celebrate those in Mississippi fighting to secure justice for the thousands locked in the state’s dangerously high prison population where nearly 50 people have died behind bars in the last six months from tragic and unconscionable conditions of confinement that have only been exacerbated recently by COVID-19. In Mississippi and elsewhere, Black people are more likely to be stopped, searched, and killed by law enforcement, as well as arrested, jailed, convicted, and sentenced to prison. Black people suffer from the highest  rates of pretrial jailing and we are so grateful for those working to provide relief through the Mississippi Bail Fund Collective and other bail funds across the country. 

...we cannot forget that Black people are still enslaved around the world.

As we celebrate the promise of freedom that Juneteenth represents, we cannot forget that Black people are still enslaved around the world. The United States arrests, detains, deports and expels Black immigrants and asylum seekers to countries where they are subjected to being tortured and killed. For Black Mauritanians, deportation could also result in being enslaved. We are honored by the commitment of Black immigrant justice organizations, including the Mauritanian Network for Human Rights in the US, UndocuBlack Network, and Haitian Bridge Alliance, to keep fighting for the protections and freedoms of Black Mauritanians even as our nation’s leaders fail to make good on the promise of American refuge.

On this 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, we are thinking of all those who came home from prisons, jails, and detention centers this past year whether it be the many – though not nearly enough –  released across the country in the last 6 months to slow the spread of coronavirus or the thousands of New Yorkers spared from the brutally high costs of pretrial jailing due to bold reforms secured in 2019, or the hundreds commuted and welcomed home in a single day in Oklahoma. We hold that good news close because it reminds us that emancipation is the work of now and requires a daily recommitment from all of us to fight for justice and freedom for Black people

Happy Juneteenth,
Todd Schulte 

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