Washington state celebrates Juneteenth for the first time
In honor of Washington celebrating Juneteenth for the first time as an official state holiday, Governor Jay Inslee called for change at a ceremonial declaration on Thursday.
At the Blacks United in Leadership and Development Juneteenth Celebration, Inslee said the holiday is one where the sunshine of justice and anti-racism can be celebrated.
While the state is one of a handful to observe Juneteenth as an official holiday, the governor said more needs to be done.
“Why did it take two years for the Emancipation Proclamation to be effectuated across the south? Why did it take two years for the Emancipation Proclamation to be effectuated in the United States? That is a good question, but here’s another question. Why are we still fighting the forces of hated and division after 150 years in the United States?” Inslee asked at the ceremony.
“That’s the question we have to ask ourselves now because the sad fact of what happened in Galveston, the scourge of division and hatred unfortunately still exists in our country and to our state.”
He was alluding to June 16, 1865, the day federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce all enslaved people were freed, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
“We have to be as dedicated to the ideas of equity and freedom and liberty, both socially and economically, just as much as Abraham Lincoln was in 1865,” Inslee said.
The governor called for people to think of how they can “continue to bend the arc of the moral universe” on June 19.
Among the issues he voiced need improvements are: economic inequity in the black community; the continuation of unnecessary incarceration; and the inability to attain equity to open a cannabis business.
The first year of recognizing Juneteenth as a state holiday comes after 14 years of Washington lawmakers beginning their push to establish the day of recognition.