As we commemorate Juneteenth in the shadow of the racist massacre in Buffalo and the many other ways people’s rights are being eroded, some people may wonder – what is there to celebrate?
Juneteenth 2021 Flag-raising at Binghamton American Civic Association
Juneteenth is a day of celebrating freedom and the many contributions of African Americans to this country. It is also a day to reflect on its relevance to the collective history of our nation, consider how it impacts our country today, and commit to ensure that future generations of Americans work to ensure liberation.
We honor the day 157 years ago when slavery officially ended in America, nearly two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. When General Order Number 3 was issued in Galveston, Texas in 1865, it contained these simple, yet powerful words: “absolute equality of rights” shall be “heretofore existing.”
History plays an integral role in our daily lives whether we are conscious of it or not. Our region has a rich, diverse and complicated history that informs us of our past, ranging from significant locations along the Underground Railroad to the sites of KKK rallies to the establishment of organizations that highlight the best of our humanity. Whether you live in Broome, Cortland, or Tompkins County, we share a history of struggle, progress, and collective growth, defined by people who worked hard and aspired to have a better quality of life.
Today, many people speak of the desire for equity and justice, yet the rise of discrimination, bigotry, racism, and oppression is real and pervasive locally, nationally, and globally. Recent events, like the supermarket massacre in Buffalo, the rise of hate crimes against Asian-Americans and members of the LGBTQ+ community, and the efforts around the world to destroy democracies, are evidence that we still have much work to do.
Let us acknowledge the existence of inequality and injustice in our daily lives and in our institutions and commit to change through our actions, not just through our words. Our collective civic responsibility demands that we stand up for what’s right with our voices and our votes.
I believe in the possibility for joy, even when things seem difficult or disheartening. We cannot settle for the comfort of complacency as we work together to create better communities in our region for ourselves and the generations that follow. Upholding the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the responsibility of all of us- and there is joy and reason to celebrate as we come together in community to uplift each other.
Only when we unify and pledge to ensure “absolute equality of rights” for everyone will we keep the promise of 1865 and guarantee a future where we all can thrive.
I invite everyone to celebrate the promise of freedom and equity and to find joy in the work we do together to make that promise a reality.
Juneteenth Flag - learn about the flag's symbolism here
P.S. Check out our photos on to see me at Juneteenth celebrations across our district!