Refugee Congress stands in solidarity with Black American communities in celebrating Juneteenth — the day when thousands of enslaved peoples in Galveston Texas were finally informed of their freedom, a full two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation declared that “all persons held as slaves…are and henceforward shall be free.”
Scholars and activists alike remind us that Juneteenth represents how freedom and justice in the U.S. has always been delayed for Black people.
On Juneteenth, we celebrate freedom and resilience. As a diverse community of refugees and asylees, our members share the common experience of fleeing violence and persecution at the hands of our own governments based on our racial and ethnic identity, political affiliations or religious beliefs. We are deeply grateful to Black Americans who resisted oppression and continue to resist to make the promise of human equality a reality for all.
As we deepen our understanding of the history of anti-Black racism in this country and how that has been embedded in the systems and structures of society, we pledge to work together to dismantle the systems that maintain white privilege.
Refugee Congress urges lawmakers to make Juneteenth a national holiday as a way to bring America closer to truly embracing the ideals of freedom and justice for all.
“2020 marks the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, also known as the celebration of ‘freedom’ of African Americans in the United States. 2020 has also proven itself to be an unprecedented year of happenings: from COVID-19 to the nationwide reawakening of old scars left from slavery as a result of the covert racism that exists in America today. Although saddened by the death of George Floyd and the other African American individuals who grotesquely lost their lives before him, I am proud of how these events have perturbed our status quo, drawn attention to Juneteenth and brought back the Black Lives Matter movement to center stage where it belongs.” –Lourena Gboeah, Refugee Congress Board Chair and Delegate (Delaware)
“As a Liberian who experienced a civil war and lived in a refugee camp, celebrating Juneteenth is an opportunity for me to educate myself about the importance of African American history, culture, struggles and cries for freedom in America. It also reminds me of the special relationships between Liberia and the U.S. and the role of freed slaves in Liberia’s history. Going back to my personal experience, Juneteenth helps bring my family and me together so we can honor those who are no longer here to celebrate and enjoy the fruitfulness of life.” – George Tarr, Refugee Congress Delegate (New York)
“After living in a refugee camp for seventeen years, Juneteenth to me means being grateful to have freedom of choice, and an opportunity to feel and be treated as a human being.” –Isabel Kayembe, Refugee Congress Delegate (Rhode Island)
See other recent quotes from other Refugee Congress Delegates and Honorary Delegates on the Black Lives Matter Movement