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Friday Wrap With Tina Podlodowski

18 Jun 2021 1:22 PM | Douglass MacKenzie (Administrator)

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Juneteenth - Tomorrow is Juneteenth, the day that we commemorate the ending of slavery in the United States. While President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, it wasn’t until June 19th, 1865, that Union soldiers in Galveston, Texas, informed the African Americans enslaved there of the proclamation and that they were free. In the 156 years since, Juneteenth has evolved from being just an anniversary of the end to one of America’s greatest sins to a celebration of Black liberation and freedom across our nation. This is an opportunity to reflect upon the challenges of racism we still grapple with in our society. It reminds us of the horrors that Black Americans have endured and of the progress we can achieve together. Juneteenth reminds us that we can fight and win in our everlasting efforts towards freedom, equity, and justice.

This holiday also makes me think of the debate going on over “critical race theory” - the effort by conservatives to demonize the idea of teaching students that racism exists in America and about some of the more shameful elements of our history. We can’t wish away the wounds of the past and denying that these historical wrongs ever happened will not heal the scars they left behind. We can’t meaningfully address problems like the opportunity gap in our schools, the school-to-prison pipeline in our criminal justice system, disproportionate use of force by police, the economic and environmental injustice in racially segregated communities, or generational wealth without honestly recognizing that these issues are rooted in racism from the past and, unfortunately, all too often, in the present. 

You can’t solve problems unless you are willing to acknowledge they exist and recognize their causes. I think it’s of the utmost importance that students today learn the truth about our country and our history - that we aren’t perfect, we have sinned, we have caused great harm, and we should strive to be better. I don’t know what could be more American than recognizing what’s wrong in the world and trying to make it right. That’s some of what I’ll be thinking and talking about this Juneteenth.

Legislative Action - We’ve been encouraged by the growing movement to recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday. Juneteenth originated as an unofficial holiday in Black communities and, in some cases, its celebration was met with active interference from white local officials and businesses. During the Civil Rights Movement, the commemoration of Juneteenth became more widespread and celebrated.  Declaring Juneteenth a formal, federal holiday gives us a day on the calendar to reflect on the dark chapters in our country’s history, consider how we can and must combat the institutional racism and white supremacy interwoven in the fabric of our history, and take action to reach justice, even if it is delayed. 

47 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation ceremonially observing or commemorating Juneteenth. Washington has been part of this group of states since 2007. However, Washington became the 7th state to officially recognize Juneteenth as a paid, state holiday when the state legislature passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Melanie Morgan (29th LD) this session. Earlier this week, Maine passed similar legislation, bringing the total number of states that officially recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday to nine. 

Just this week, Congress passed and President Biden signed a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday as well. Now, every year our calendars will have this opportunity to discuss our country’s history, how we can make right the injustices of the past, and how we can prevent them from happening again in the future. I’m so glad to see our Democratic leaders acting on this issue. 

Watch Our FB Live with Rep. Melanie Morgan - Yesterday, we had one of our Facebook Live events with Rep. Melanie Morgan, the sponsor of the state Juneteenth bill. We talked about the importance of this holiday, what it represents, and about the effort to get this bill passed through the legislature. You can watch and share the video here

Juneteenth Events - if you want to commemorate Juneteenth in person (and I hope you’re vaccinated if you will be!) check out this list of Juneteenth events compiled by our friends at UFCW 21. They have listed events all around the Puget Sound area to attend for this important day! In the Seattle area, the South Seattle Emerald has another list of Juneteenth events to check out and attend. For the Spokane area, KXLY has this list of local Juneteenth events

Countdown to the Primary - We’re now four weeks away from ballots going out to voters for this year’s primary election, and we hope everyone is getting ready to get out the vote for local Democratic candidates this year! We’re still hoping folks will report back to us about the important local candidates in their area by emailing organizing@wa-democrats.org. Still, we also want to make sure folks are aware of all the resources available to help local campaigns and parties get out the vote! We won’t copy and paste all of last week’s email here again but make sure you, your local party, and the candidates you support are taking advantage of these resources to help Democrats in your local community. 

Something to Read - Our Congressman Derek Kilmer (CD 6) had a good op-ed in the Tacoma News Tribune about HR 1 - the For The People Act - and how it would protect voting rights across the country. While Washington has proudly led the way in voting access with policies like vote-by-mail, the Washington Voting Rights Act, and same-day and automatic voter registration, we know that Republicans are attacking the right to vote every day in this country. They know how unpopular their policies are and that their best chance of winning is to suppress voters and prevent their opponents from turning out. That’s why it’s so important we take federal action to protect the right to vote in every state by passing legislation like the For The People Act. Thanks for writing the op-ed, Rep. Kilmer!

Thanks for reading and for your support, as always!

With gratitude, 

Tina Podlodowski 

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