Lawmaker calls for state holiday in Washington as nation marks Juneteenth

Across the country, people filled the streets to celebrate Juneteenth and also call for change, including renewed calls to make it a national holiday.

Senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Edward J. Markey and Tina Smith announced the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act on Friday. Earlier this week, the governors of Virginia and New York stated they were making Juneteenth a paid state holiday.

Washington state representative Melanie Morgan was the prime sponsor of a bill proposed in the last session aimed at moving Juneteenth from a state -observed holiday to an official, paid state holiday.

She said she was told it would cost about $3 million, and due to the fact that it was a short session focused on a supplemental budget, the bill did not pass out of committee.

“It was very disheartening and hurt my heart a lot because we’re always being told, ‘Not right now,’” Morgan said.

But, she said, she is not giving up.

“What has transpired now across the globe says it’s going to pass this time,” she said.

Indeed, demonstrators filled the streets of Washington, D.C. on Friday to demand change across many fronts in the fight against systemic racism.

“This is my son who’s 20 years old,” Racine Williams said, “and I hate that I have to worry about him every single day.”

Many in Western Washington demonstrated outside, but there were options online for people as well.

The Washington State Labor Council hosted a Juneteenth Lunch and Learn, showing a video and talking about the history of Juneteenth, the announcement of federal orders in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, proclaiming that all slaves in Texas were free.

“It was for the first time that black people in the South had the right to own the value of their labor,” WSLC Secretary Treasurer April Sims said.

They also discussed the ongoing fight for racial justice.

“I’m here because I am the descendant of the survivors,” Labor Heritage Foundation Executive Director Elise Bryant said. “And we didn’t just survive. We thrived … I am ready to move forward. The time is now, the place is here.”