A history of Juneteenth, Calls to Defund, and Reparations!
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth, sometimes known as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, or Jubilee Day, celebrates the end of chattel slavery in this country.
On June 19, 1865 – two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation – Union soldiers in Galveston, Texas announced that the Civil War was over and the enslaved people of Texas were free. As the most remote of the slave states, with the fewest Union soldiers, Texas was the last Confederate state to free enslaved people. A few months later, the 13th Amendment was passed, and chattel slavery became illegal across the United States.
Serving as a day of remembrance for Black people in Texas since 1866, Juneteenth began to be commemorated across the country in the 1970s. Join Black leaders in calling for Juneteenth to be a federal holiday in the United States.
Calls to Action:
The History of Calls to “Defund” the Police
Activists have participated in large-scale organizing to defund and abolish police and prisons in the United States since as early as the 1940s. You can read about this history in this article in the Boston Review.
Calls for abolition re-emerged in force in the 1970s, and organizing efforts continued in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1976, Fay “Honey” Knopp published Instead of Prisons: A Handbook for Prison Abolitionists and in 1983, Ruth Morris and others organized the International Conference on Penal Abolition. Angela Davis, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, and other activists formed the group Critical Resistance in 1997. Gilmore, perhaps the foremost abolitionist scholar, describes much abolitionist work as “non-reformist reforms,” meaning reforms that build towards real change. Divesting in police and investing in communities is one such example.
Support Black-led organizations like Communities United for Police Reform, Critical Resistance, and the Movement for Black Lives in these calls to defund the police. Read organizer Mariame Kaba’s brilliant essay in the New York Times about police abolition or watch Kaba’s recent lecture outlining the goals of and steps toward abolition. And keep in mind that New York Police Department’s (NYPD’s) $6 billion budget is only half of the true cost to the city. New Yorkers spend another $5 billion a year on NYPD pensions and benefits, $600 million on NYPD building/vehicle maintenance, repairs, and associated debt, and $250 million on settlements and judgements for lawsuits against the NYPD. Learn about some of the proposals to reallocate this money here.
Calls to Action:
- Join Communities United for Police Reform in calling for $1 billion in cuts to the NYPD. The partners in this campaign come from all five boroughs, from all walks of life, and represent many of those most unfairly targeted by the NYPD.
- Join the Black-led Movement for Black Lives in their nationwide call to defund the police.
- Join the Democratic Socialists of America in calling for cuts to the NYPD budget in half.
Calls for defunding and abolition are not simply calls for elimination or destruction. As Gilmore and other abolitionists point out, we must build anew. You can read here about the eight steps toward abolition, of which defunding the police is the first or check out Free Them All’s multi-step platform to defund the NYPD, including closing Rikers. We must begin to rethink the ways in which we address crime,focusing not on retribution and punishment, but on new forms of justice. And, we must not only redistribute funds on a local level, but on a state and federal level. We must invest in social services. And we must support reparations.
Demand Reparations Now
Support calls for reparations for the descendants of enslaved people in the United States. If you are a non-Black ally, we urge you to join us in commemorating Juneteenth this year by calling for reparations.
Reparations are a first step toward restitution for stolen lives, labor, knowledge, and skills, and for the continued systemic violence against and theft of land and property from Black people in the United States. Listen to this short piece on NPR exploring reparations.
We urge you to read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article “The Case for Reparations,” if you haven’t already. And read about the Movement for Black Lives’ call for reparations.
Call to Action
Send emails to your Congressperson and to Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer demanding they support the House (H.R. 40) and Senate (S. 1083) bills to create a commission to study reparations.
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