Ark Republic met with New York State Assemblyman Clyde Vanel and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams to get their thoughts on Juneteenth becoming a national holiday during the Juneteenth in Queens celebration at Roy Wilkins Park.
Recently, the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act was passed then signed into law by President Joe Biden who tweeted, “Today, I had the honor of signing a bill to officially make Juneteenth a federal holiday. With this important step, all Americans can feel the power of the day, learn from our history, celebrate our progress, and grapple with the distance we still have to travel.”
Indeed, New York State Assemblyman Clyde Vanel believes that understanding where we came from and what we’ve been through will guide where we’re going. The work to make sure African Americans are recognized and make the world understand what America has done to African Americans is a journey according to Vanel. “If we look at other communities they don’t stop. No, it’s a process. They keep going,” says Vanel.
That being the case, there are also those who believe that there were more pressing issues in the Black community that should have taken priority over Juneteenth becoming a national holiday. “Black folks are always stuck in a tense position,” says NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. There’s a lot of significance in Juneteenth becoming a national holiday and it should be celebrated according to Williams.
On the other hand, when you consider issues such as police violence, inequity and injustice as a whole systemic issue, making Juneteenth a national holiday was not at the top of the agenda. “My worry is that they try to give us this so that they won’t have to do the harder things. But that’s where we are unfortunately. That’s where we usually are,” says Williams.
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As for the rest of the residents of Queens, they breathed a sigh of relief as they were able to celebrate their first Juneteenth as a national holiday in-person rather than virtually. Attendees enjoyed a festival village that included seven market spaces dedicated to Black beauty, health and wellness, art, fashion, youth, literature and food. “We, in Queens on Juneteenth, commemorate and reflect on the sacrifices and triumphs of our Black ancestors and their journey toward freedom and liberation,” says Vanel.
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