Juneteenth: A Day of Empowerment

File Photo: Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Tree Grove Dedication on March 31, 2018.

As a portmanteau of June and nineteenth, Juneteenth in its literal sense is recognized as the date in which slaves in Galveston received news—more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation—that they were now free. In the centuries since, this date of delayed justice, it has come to embody much more; the jubilee of promise opportunity, self-determination and empowerment.

For many, Juneteenth is more than a holiday. It’s about recognizing the value in a very long arc of justice on which Juneteenth falls. It’s stems from having honest and painful discussions about this nation’s history from 1619 to the present. At its core, Juneteenth is about voter empowerment – but at-large, it’s about the growing attention that offers our nation a rare opportunity to reflect upon and grapple with the stain left from the ugly and depraved institution of human enslavement.

Given the state of the union, it’s more important now than ever to commemorate this national holiday. This year, more than 150 years later, with protests across the country, and here in Los Angeles, on the need to reexamine mechanisms for police accountability, and our investments in community well-being and reducing the harm caused by overreliance, it has taken on added significance. As a belated emancipation holiday connected generations of struggle and fits of eventual progress, change is slowly coming to the fore. Amid this backdrop not only are corporations recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday for their employees and that Black history is a shared American history, but we’re finally seeing discussions that revisit the need for its inclusion as a core part U.S. history curriculum. And there is even talks of making it a national holiday.

In the spirit that imbues this holiday, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has led out on several initiatives advocating for greater equity, and justice throughout the County. Such as, the innovative jobs program that promotes equal opportunities in the film and digital media workforce; and the Office of Diversion and Reentry program that provides supportive housing to those who have been wrongly convicted and incarcerated.

Most recently, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas invited California Governor, Gavin Newsom to tour Leimert Park with him discuss the injustice and inequity taking place across the nation. The two spoke about ways to improve justice and police reform.

For Los Angeles County residents looking to learn more, stay educated, engaged and empowered during the holiday, there are a number of ways for you to get involved. To show your support, you can participate in virtual discussions, partake in family conversations, check in on your friends, family and colleagues, or volunteer with local community-based organizations who need your support.

On Friday, June 19, 2020, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas participated in The City of West Hollywood’s virtual panel discussion. An excerpt from the discussion is available below: