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  • Writer's pictureAlysha Lewis

President Biden Signs Bill Making Juneteenth a Federal Holiday

June 17th marks a momentous day for the black community, President Joe Biden signs the bill recognizing June 19th (Juneteenth) as a Federal Holiday. Juneteenth has become the country’s 11th federal holiday, and the first new federal holiday in nearly four decades.

June 19th, also known as Juneteenth, is, “known as Emancipation Day, Black Independence Day, and Jubilee Day — marks the 1865 date when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived with federal troops in Galveston, Texas, and issued an order freeing the nation’s last slaves. The ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in December 1865 abolished slavery throughout the entire country.”

June 19th marks a day of freedom for the Black community, our ancestors went through years of being enslaved to then finally be freed on this grave day.

This bill comes after a series of hearings this week with the House and Senate before the bill was sent to President Biden for the final signing of the bill into law. The House voted Wednesday, 415–14.

At 3:30 on June 17th, President Biden held an event to commemorate the signing of the new federal holiday.

During the signing ceremony, President Biden went on to say, “I have to say to you, I’ve only been President for several months, but I think this will go down, for me, as one of the greatest honors I will have as President,” Biden said at the White House during a signing ceremony.

“I regret that my grandchildren aren’t here, because this is a really, really, really important moment in our history. By making Juneteenth a federal holiday, all Americans can feel the power of this day and learn from our history — and celebrate progress and grapple with the distance we’ve come (and) the distance we have to travel,” Biden said.

President Biden took some time during the ceremony to recognize that this is in no way enough to commemorate the holiday, but to use it as a day of reflection. The President assured Americans that this is just the beginning of the work he plans to do, to ensure equality for all Americans.

The question that now remains is, will this be enough? The Black community has shared their thoughts concerning the new bill. Many activists in Michigan are unamused by this decision to sign the bill, they have voiced that there are more important matters that could have come before this.

The Greater Grand Rapids NAACP President, Cle Jackson said in an interview with WZZM 13, “It is a slap in the face and it’s absolutely ridiculous,” Cle Jackson says.

Juneteenth has always been celebrated as an unofficial holiday, this bill was needed, however, congress and the President should read the room.

The Justice in Policing Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the People’s Act, are all more important matters in the world right now than making Juneteenth a holiday.

The Justice in Policing Act seeks to ban the use of chokeholds and change the use of force standard for federal officers from reasonableness to only when necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury. The bill would also limit the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement, require federal uniformed police officers to wear body cameras, and mandate all marked federal police vehicles have dashboard cameras.

“If U.S. Congress wants to extend an olive branch, they should move forward those three pieces of legislation that actually systematically and institutionally will impact Black folks and brown folks across this country,” he says.

Black Twitter also expressed their subtly disapproving reactions to the new bill.

Photo from Twitter @YesAurielle

Photo from Twitter @YesAurielle

Photo from @CoriBush

For many decades, Black people have been asking for one thing, and that is reparations. Reparations for the continuous mistreatment of Black people in America and systemic racism.

Reparations are a system of redress for egregious injustices.

To many, this is seen as another paid day off. Instead of celebrating a paid day off, Americans need to take the time to research what is truly going on in America, to educate themselves on the abhorrent treatment of Black people in America.

This year, Juneteenth will have new meaning. The signing of this bill is just the beginning of the work that needs to be done ensuring equality and embracing diversity in the United States. Let the sounds of freedom ring as Americans begin the celebrations this weekend to celebrate new beginnings and well-deserved recognition.

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