Juneteenth: Commemorating the end of slavery in the United States

Dear fellow King County employee,

Tomorrow, June 19, we celebrate Juneteenth, marking the day in 1865 that Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas, with word that the Civil War had ended and that enslaved Africans were now free.

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, and is an opportunity to reflect on and learn about our nation’s history, Black history, our shared history. It is a time to celebrate the vital contributions that Black and African Americans have made – and continue to make – to this country. It is an opportunity to learn from some of the most shameful aspects of our past as we work to create a better future. It is also a reminder that we must redouble our efforts to intentionally dismantle the institutions of systemic racism and the unearned privilege that comes with being born white, and build an equitable, racially just future.

Black History is our history, the heritage of our nation and county. While Juneteenth is not yet a National Holiday, it is recognized as a state holiday or officially recognized in 47 states. As King County Executive, I want us to make Juneteenth a day of service, learning, action and progress for all King County employees. Further, I pledge to work with our labor partners and the King County Council toward the goal of making Juneteenth an official holiday in honor and recognition of the immense contributions of Black and African Americans. I want to honor and recognize King County’s government’s Black African leaders for organizing and allowing our employee community to be part of a series of “Town Halls on Race, Racism & Change in the Age of COVID-19.” These sessions, dedicated to collective reflection and action, unity, and healing, center on the depth and breadth of the Black African experience, especially in the wake of police violence against and killings of Black and Brown people, and the ongoing trauma of racialized violence. Our Balanced You Program has also curated a list of Emotional well-being resources for Black communities to support health and healing of our Black employees.

Today, Black and African Americans continue to face deeply entrenched racism, violence, and discrimination. We all have a role to play in building a racially just future. We can start by learning about systemic racism and what we can do to dismantle it. Let us commemorate Juneteenth as a day of healing and reflection for Black employees, and a day of service for all King County employees. I strongly encourage us each to donate or volunteer as we are able at local community-based organizations that are Black-led or advance issues and priorities for Black/African American communities. You can find a list of organizations that participate in our Employee Giving Program here. Later this year you will be able to donate time as well as money during the 2020 Annual Giving Drive. You can also find resources on being an anti-racism ally here.

Juneteenth 2020 is a time for hope, marked by historic demonstrations and calls for racial justice in King County and across the United States, indeed around the world. It is time to turn these calls into action, to harness the passion and momentum, to stand together and truly live our We are Racially Just value, to grasp this moment in our history and build a future free of racism, violence, and hate.

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Dow Constantine
King County Executive