A Message from our Director on Juneteenth – Newark Public Library

A Message from our Director on Juneteenth

On Friday, June 19, 2020, we celebrate the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, the commemoration of the 1865 declaration of freedom for the last enslaved Black people in the United States.  While the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863, the news of freedom did not reach Texas until two and a half years later, when Major General Gordon Granger delivered the message in Galveston that all enslaved people were free.

This Juneteenth celebration takes on special meaning in light of the many demonstrations by multitudes of Americans to protest the fact that Black people in America, in 2020, are not yet fully liberated.

Systemic racism in America has been exposed in the face of a pandemic that has disproportionately ravaged communities of color, and a string of horrifying police killings of Black people.  The majority of Americans are saying ENOUGH.  Locally, racial disparities in police treatment, and in health outcomes, are also right here in New Jersey.

New Jersey is home to some of the worst racial disparities in the nation.  Our racial wealth gap is one of the worst in the country.  Black people in New Jersey are three times more likely to face police force than white people.  And the racial disparity in both youth incarceration and adult incarceration is the worst in the country.

Many people say that this time it feels different.  But it’s up to each of us to actually make it so.

Please see the NJ Institute for Social Justice’s “Ten Ways to do Racial Justice Advocacy After You Say Black Lives Matter” https://www.njisj.org/10-things, which provide concrete actions you can take to help turn this moment into lasting policy change and to create an America where Black Lives Matter is more than a hashtag.

Tom Alrutz
Interim Library Director
June 19, 2020