Juneteenth 2021 Message
This Saturday we celebrate Juneteenth and commemorate the day in 1865 on which a Union soldier marched in to Galveston, Texas, proclaiming that the Civil War had ended and America’s enslaved people had been freed. The Emancipation Proclamation had been issued almost three years earlier – in September, 1862 – but slavery persisted until that day: June 19, 1865. The war had ended and with it, the institution of slavery in the US, but the struggle for equality in our country had just begun and continues to this day.
Those of us born in the 1940’s and 50’s probably remember segregated schools and washrooms and public transportation and accommodations. We remember the civil rights marches of the 60’s, the bravery of people like Rosa Parks and John Lewis, and the eloquence of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. What many of us were ignorant of, however, was the way the GI Bill discriminated against GIs of color returning from WWII, the horrific experiments like Tuskegee, and the redlining of neighborhoods and the bias that prevented African Americans and other people of color from obtaining mortgages and business loans. Even today many are unaware of the lack of equity in our healthcare system and the fact that African American women and their babies die in childbirth or in the year thereafter at several times the rate of white women. And too many of us have ignored the indignities suffered by African Americans on a daily basis.
Every year, when we sit down at our Passover seders, we relate the tale of our journey from bondage to freedom. As we tell that story we affirm our belief that there is no freedom until all, everywhere, are free.
This year has taught us, as no other year in recent memory has shown, that equity in the US is far from realized. May we put aside our political differences and work together in earnest on the urgent task of ensuring that all Americans and all who reside here are safe and free; that all have truly equal opportunity and equal access to the rights and privileges that our society professes as its ideal. As Abraham Lincoln stood on the battlefield in Gettysburg, he reminded us that:
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal….”
Let us rejoice in that ideal and in what we have achieved, but fully understand that the task is not yet complete. We at the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey are committed to do what we can to ensure that each and every one of us works for the freedom and equality of us all.