Tomorrow is June 19th, better known to all of us in the African-American community as Juneteenth. Juneteenth commemorates the date that enslaved Africans learned that the Civil War was over and that they were free.

Just to give you a little bit of history, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the emancipation proclamation which went into effect on January 1, 1863. It wasn’t until January 31, 1865 that the13th amendment was passed by Congress. The 13th amendment states “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” In other words, it was no longer legal to own another human being as a slave in the United States.

A whole 2 1/2 years after the law had passed against slavery, enslaved Africans learned that they were free. It was on June 19, 1865 that union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas with the news that slavery had been abolished.

Here we are 155 years later, and descendants of those slaves are still fighting in the streets for basic human and civil rights. That’s hard to believe that after 155 years, African Americans are still suffering from systemic racism.

It seems that the protesters and the voices shouting out for justice are possibly beginning to be heard. Yesterday, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order that would make Juneteenth a paid holiday for state workers. In addition, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan signed an executive order declaring Juneteenth a holiday in the city of Albany.

I think that these executive orders acknowledging Juneteenth are great. It’s a great step in the right direction, but we all know that we have a long way to go to see equity for all citizens of the United States. So celebrate Juneteenth, go out and support black businesses. Uplift one another and continue the hard work we still have ahead of us.

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