Honoring Juneteenth and the Work Ahead

June 19, 2023

Community Justice, Disability Justice, Environmental Justice, Health Justice, News, Pro Bono Clearinghouse

Protestors hold a banner that reads "We who believe in freedom cannot rest." The quote is attributed to Ella Baker.

Juneteenth is a celebration and acknowledgement of Black self-determination and agency, and we must also embrace the sage words of the great Dr. Angela Davis, who reminds us that “freedom is a constant struggle.”  While the institution of slavery has been abolished, the legacy of slavery remains.

The profound stains of anti-Blackness on the fabric of this nation need not be indelible. The New York State Legislature just passed a bill that will result in the formation of a committee to study reparations in the state. Governor Hochul can make this a Juneteenth to remember by signing this bill into law immediately. The Governor and all New York lawmakers must also demonstrate a greater commitment to climate and environmental justice. Black New Yorkers, as confirmed by the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) remain disproportionately impacted by toxic air pollution. The Governor should direct DEC to institute regulations that prioritize pollution reduction in Black communities as mandated by the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. She can accomplish this, in part, by ensuring that the “Cap and Invest” program currently under development is designed through a lens of environmental justice, as laid out in a recent piece by NYLPI’s Director of Environmental Justice, Anthony Rogers-Wright, in the Albany Times Union.

This Juneteenth, we have a collective responsibility to do all that we can to acknowledge and dismantle the legacy of slavery, and that starts with hard conversations that lead to requisite action to dismantle anti-Blackness. NYLPI commits to holding these hard discussions internally and externally, as well as through our work.

For more on Juneteenth, please read this thoughtful piece by Anthony Rogers-Wright.

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