Policy. Advocacy. Change.

Celebrating Juneteenth

June 17, 2022

By Phyllis Utley, coordinator, Asheville Buncombe Food Security Reparations Coalition

Sunday, June 19, Americans will observe the nation’s youngest federal holiday – Juneteenth, which became officially recognized last year by President Joe Biden. The YMI Culture Center in partnership with the City of Asheville will have a public event at Pack’s Square on June 18th Juneteenth of Asheville – Juneteenth of Asheville 2022

The holiday commemorates the Emancipation Proclamation in the U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issued the proclamation to free Black Americans in secessionist states on January 1, 1863, but enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, would not learn of their freedom until two years later.

On June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger informed the community of Galveston of Lincoln’s proclamation. Though it was issued years prior, enslavers were held responsible for telling the enslaved they were free, and some ignored the directive. Maj. Gen. Gordon demanded Galveston locals comply with the proclamation. Some folks still didn’t learn until the 1960’s. Yes the 1960’s…An example of such extreme continual enslavement is the case of Mae Louise Walls Miller who wasn’t granted freedom until 1961. Proclamation 95 in 1863 was supposed to put an end to slavery, but prosecutions throughout the 20th century showed that white people had continued to keep Black people enslaved.

The work is undone and “free-ish” is more of the reality. The City of Asheville answered the call to continue to move the needle forward with a historic, newly formed Reparations Commission. There are now a number of additions to its proposed budget including a $135,000 increase to its reparations budget and a plan to continue allocation of at least $500,000 annually in coming years. Commission members voted on its first official recommendation May 23, calling for reparations funding to be included in both the City of Asheville and Buncombe County budgets in perpetuity in an effort  to make amends for the historic and present day wrongs that are suffered.

More importantly, they plan to use that figure as a baseline for future budgets.
We think the City can afford more for Reparations, but of greater importance right now is for the Buncombe County Commission to announce their future budgetary commitments to Reparations. Will they follow the example of the City and designate Reparations as an ongoing funding priority, perhaps with an annual goal that matches their planned allocation this year of $2 million? Join the Asheville Racial Justice Coalition in reaching out to them today and asking them to commit to Reparations.

You can read more about the situation  on the Racial Justice Coalition website, where there is a template email you can quickly personalize and send. Thank you for your support of the Reparations Commission and racial equity in our communities!

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