EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – This year Juneteenth is being celebrated as an officially recognized federal holiday and some El Pasoans say it’s a step towards change.
Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day, marks the end of slavery back from June 19th of 1865 when enslaved Black Americans in Galveston, Texas received news of emancipation that freed them from slavery.
On Thursday, June 17th President Joe Biden proclaimed Juneteenth as an official federal holiday for the first time.
Doris Jackson-Hardwick, president of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in El Paso, said she sees it as an “olive branch being extended” to Black Americans and a start of change for the better.
She said even though Juneteenth was celebrated in the El Paso community before, this opens up doors for more conversation about the history of slavery in the U.S.
“If we once listened to each other, see where we want to go, where we’ve been, and we need to see if we can come to a happy medium so everybody can be a winner,” said Jackson-Hardwick.
Kyra Lewis is the vice president of Black Students Union at UTEP and hopes Juneteenth being a national holiday will prompt talks about the injustices African-Americans are facing, especially when it comes to younger generations.
Despite the holiday being recognized on a national level she still felt it was contradictive, coming just days after the state of Texas passed a bill that bans educators from teaching about critical race theory in school.
“I find it very ironic and, perhaps, even performative that you can pass a national holiday celebrating the freedom of slaves when you don’t want to teach about the circumstance that brought them here,” explained Lewis.
She said, however, this is a step forward and a day to celebrate, as well as reflect on the contributions that Black Americans have done for this country.
“We’re thankful that we got Juneteenth, don’t get me wrong, but there’s so many things that we wanted addressed first,” she said.