House and Senate members join together to file legislation to make Juneteenth a state holiday

On June 18, Representatives Bud Willams (D-Springfield), Chynah Tyler (D-Boston), Maria Robinson (D-Framingham), and Mindy Domb (D-Amherst), along with Senators Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Jamaica Plain), and Jo Comerford (D-Northampton) announce the filing of legislation to mandate that June 19, known as Juneteenth, become a Massachusetts state holiday.

 On behalf of their constituents and in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives, the legislators filed An Act to make Juneteenth a State Holiday in both chambers and immediately began seeking co-sponsorships on HD5141 and SD2975. Current law mandates only that the governor issue a proclamation and that Juneteenth be observed on the Sunday closest to June 19. 

One hundred and fifty-five years ago on June 19, enslaved Black people in Texas received word that they were free — two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Since that time, each year on this date, people have come together in states across the nation to celebrate freedom, emancipation, and to call for transformative racial justice.

“Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom, and a reminder that the project of racial justice and liberation in this country remains unfinished, with so much work left to do. Marking Juneteenth as a state holiday will honor a transformative moment in our country’s history—emancipation from slavery—while also recommitting us to ending the ongoing violence, discrimination, and injustice we continue to force Black Americans to endure,” said Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz.

“Although freedom is a noun, it is a way of life that African Americans deserve and are still striving for every day,” declared Rep. Chynah Tyler. “The need to establish Juneteenth as a state holiday is aligned with the Black Lives Matter Movement and is a step in the right direction. African Americans fought valiantly in every war since the Civil War, yet have not been granted access to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Because Black lives matter, we must honor all African Americans who sacrificed their lives for this very cause and set the tone for the future generations to live without fear of being unlawfully detained or harmed without equitable due process. With that, as an African-American woman who happens to hold an elected seat, I am proud to offer up this bill in efforts to unlock access to freedom alongside my colleagues.” 

“Establishing Juneteenth as a state holiday would be a significant—and long overdue—step in commemorating the anniversary of the emancipation of the last enslaved African-Americans,” said Sen. Brendan Crighton. “Juneteenth is a time to celebrate the end of slavery and the contributions of African-Americans to the Commonwealth and our nation. It is also a time for all of us to reflect on the painful legacy of slavery and to commit to taking sustained action to eradicate racism and prejudice from our society.”

“Seeing Juneteenth celebrations across the Commonwealth has inspired all of us to take the next step and create a state holiday to formally memorialize and remember our difficult history as a nation,” noted Rep. Maria Robinson. “Hopefully passing bills like this one at the state level will encourage our federal government to make Juneteenth a national holiday for us to reflect and continue our efforts toward equality and justice for all, especially Black Americans.”

“Making Juneteenth a state holiday celebrates the liberation of Black Americans from institutional slavery and calls on all of us to emancipate our country from its legacy of instutuional and systemic racism. A state holiday will not only express the Commonwealth’s intention to continuously engage in this important work, but our commitment to take action and assess our efforts,” said Rep. Mindy Domb.

 “This is an inflection moment and our job as legislators is to lean in and act. I’m deeply grateful to lock arms with my colleagues. Passage of this bill will help ensure the Commonwealth’s necessary and sustained focus on the legacy of enslavement and our collective work for racial justice and equity,” offered Sen. Jo Comerford.

 An Act to make Juneteenth a State Holiday, HD5141 and SD2975, will now be sent by House and Senate Clerks to a joint committee for consideration and a hearing.

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