Federal Juneteenth Holiday Seen As One Step Toward Progress On Racial Equality
This past weekend Abilene residents joined people across the nation in celebrating Juneteenth, and for the first time in 156 years as a federal holiday. The three-day festivities included the screening of a documentary about the history of Juneteenth and members of the community, games, a free meal, and several concerts.
The Abilene Police department joined in the fun, playing a round of kickball against Abilene residents. Organizer Dee Moore says while other cities have seen tensions rise over the past several years, Abilene has maintained better relations, “I think that was wonderful, to put policemen in a neighborhood. And I tell people I back the blue, all policemen aren’t bad.”
Moore, who is President of the Abilene Black Chamber of Commerce, said that the Juneteenth celebration was a collaborative event with many organizations. “We’re here to try to help and support the small businesses- minority businesses, so we partner with the Cultural Business Network," Moore said. "We’re about partnering, helping everybody. Because if they’re successful we’re successful.”
Moore made it clear that the celebration was more than just a festival, it was about coming together to celebrate and support the community.
To Layla Sessions the Juneteenth celebration is about remembering the past and coming together to imagine a better future. “We’re just excited that everybody wants to be a part of it now. You know it’s all about everybody coming together to celebrate.”
But the federal recognition of the holiday does not mark the end of the fight for racial equality. Many residents are still talking about Senate Bill 7. A piece of legislation that would have restricted early voting, limited how residents could receive absentee ballots, and regulate polling locations in urban areas. It was only prevented from passing in the final days of the session when Democratic Representatives walked out of the House chamber.
Dee Moore said she sees the bill as an attempt at voter suppression, “So why are we trying to do all of that to prohibit us from voting, cause that’s all I see. It’s finding a way to make it difficult and that gets into this whole political thing with the Republicans and the Democrats and I am so tired of that.”
Moore was also concerned with the idea of politicians supporting legislation for the sake of reelection over the effect it would have on her community, “It's about their own thing, It’s about what they want, them getting elected- it’s not about the people we’ve lost sight of the people.”
As the nation continues to take steps forward, Moore cautions individuals to focus more on what is best for people, and less on what is best for politics.