Juneteenth

Dear Michigan Democratic Party Members,

Since 2005, the State of Michigan has recognized Juneteenth as a holiday. Now in 2020, there are more people paying attention to this day than ever before. People are educating themselves on the genesis of the day, wanting to understand, wanting to celebrate the meaning of the day in Black history and culture. People of all colors and faith are finding some hope in a pivotal moment in Black history.

Juneteenth marks the date, June 19,1865, that Union General Gordon Granger read the federal orders in Galveston, Texas that all previously enslaved people in Texas were free.  The Emancipation Proclamation had freed the slaves over 2 years earlier, yet this was news to the estimated 250,000 enslaved people in Texas.

It is hard to imagine now, how it would have taken over two years for this news to reach the enslaved people in Texas.  Systemic racism in all of its insidious forms is, in many ways, as present now as it was then.  It will be education and communication that combat this awful practice and bring change.  Our voices must be heard.           

Over the last few weeks, the tragic events around the country have brought a lot of introspection and analysis from every perspective.  The recurring message heard time and again, in so many ways, is that hate is not welcome here, and we aren’t going to tolerate policies or conduct rooted in hate anymore.  I endorse that message fully, and want to state right here that Black Lives Matter.

What has inspired me to be more vocal, to move away from playing it safe, is watching our young leaders — fearless, motivated, inspired — who are ready to pick up this banner and lead.  I am ready to have their backs, to support their efforts and watch them grow into the public servants and community leaders our country so desperately needs.  

Juneteenth has always been about celebrating Black American’s freedom and achievements, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures. This feels particularly poignent during this moment in history.  There is an entire generation making the decision to take control and have a voice in their own lives.  And that gives me hope.  That the invisible barriers that were there for my generation, that allowed us to go this far, but no further, are being pushed out, maybe even eliminated.  And as the mother of three kids who all look like me, there is nothing I want more.  

As the Chair of the MDP I will do all I can to support the Black Lives Matter movement because it is the right thing to do.  But if we can find any solace at all in the events of the last few weeks, it is that these souls we have lost in tragedy are inspiring an entire generation and that generation is stepping up to the challenge.  Let us all applaud them, encourage them and support them.     

Stay Safe & Stay Healthy-

Lavora Barnes
Chair
Michigan Democratic Party

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