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Juneteenth: beyond a national holiday

As we commemorate Juneteenth, BAJI honors the continuous fight for freedom by generations of Black people in the United States, and we rededicate ourselves to the ongoing global struggle for reparations for of Black Americans and the Black diaspora worldwide.

The wealth of this nation-state was and continues to be built off the backs of Black people throughout the history of the United States of America. For centuries, Black people were kidnapped from their homes and families, held captive, tortured, and brutally forced to provide unpaid labor to the benefit of white people. During the brief period of the Radical Reconstruction, the US government made some effort toward reparatory justice for Black Americans, including the promise of “40 acres and a mule”, only to renege on any form of reparations and backtrack on other efforts to grant Black Americans the basic rights of citizenship. 

The specter of slavery still haunts Black communities across the country where the slave master’s house still looks down on us from the proverbial hill of white supremacy. Slavery merely transformed into mass incarceration. Racist and anti-Black practices like gentrification, mass incarceration, environmental racism, redlining, family separation through the child welfare system and other discriminatory public policies in criminal justice and education continue to rob all Black people of a dignified life in the US. 

BAJI fully supports reparations to Black Americans as a necessary step toward racial justice and healing from the harm and intergenerational trauma of the US legacy of slavery. There is a debt that is owed and payment is long overdue. 

We also acknowledge that reparations for past and or current anti-Black racism are not enough. The US must also make a commitment to eradicating anti-Black policies and addressing important aspects of the institutional racism that continues to operate in the life experiences of Black people in the US, including education, the labor market, housing, and healthcare. 

Without reparations and a commitment to eradicating anti-Blackness, no US celebrations of freedom really matter, including the federally-mandated celebration of Juneteenth.