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Innovation Ohio · June 19, 2021

Juneteenth is officially a national holiday. It’s also a call to action.

Today, Desiree Tims, President and CEO of Innovation Ohio, released the following statement celebrating Juneteenth, which will now be recognized as an official national holiday:

“Today, thanks to President Biden, America finally celebrates Juneteenth as an official national holiday. This could not be happening at a better time. It’s more important than ever to teach Americans the truth about our history.

“Right now, states like Ohio are trying to ban schools and universities from teaching concepts related to race, racism, sexism, and prejudice. 

“Instead of fixing discriminatory policies built into our laws, state Republican majorities want to make sure your children never learn these problems exist. We must stop these bills to prevent history from repeating itself. All children deserve an honest, accurate education.

“Juneteenth (which merges the words ‘June’ and ‘nineteenth’) provides the perfect example. On June 19th, 1865, enslaved Black Americans in Texas finally learned they were free. This was months after the Civil War had ended, and years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

“Juneteenth symbolizes the end of the horror of slavery, which came far later than textbooks tend to show. We can’t simply teach our children names and dates. They also deserve to understand the reality of our history.

“Marking June 19th as a federal holiday will help future generations understand its importance — but we must also work to overcome generations of damage inflicted on our communities. 

Decades of systemic racism have made it harder for families of color to rise above poverty and pursue the American dream. This often means we’re more at risk when disasters, like the COVID pandemic, strike unexpectedly.

President Biden’s American Rescue Plan is doing an incredible job supporting Black and brown Americans as we rebuild post COVID. It provides housing and rental assistance to keep families in their homes, money for child care, nutrition aid to put food directly on Ohioans’ tables, and much more. But it will take time to undo the larger causes that placed some Americans at a disadvantage.

More than anything, we cannot allow ourselves to be taken backward. We’re fighting to ensure Black history can be taught in classrooms, but we also need to defend our Constitutional freedoms. It’s time for elected officials to stand up for voting rights and protest rights, and to reform policing from the ground up.

“On this first official Juneteenth, we honor our past, and acknowledge all the work still left to do.”

Tagged in these Policy Areas: Education | Higher Education | K-12 Education