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Celebrating Juneteenth: A Unifying Event

These school children sang and danced to celebrate Juneteenth in Myrtle Beach. Photo by Mark Gaier. For more photos by Mark at the event, please visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/140923467@N04/albums/72157719440641019


HCDP Chair Alester Linton-Pryor attended the Juneteenth celebration Saturday, June 19, sponsored by Neighborhood Service of Myrtle Beach, saying it was a “unifying event,” commemorating the freedom of slaves in Galveston, TX, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863.

The Myrtle Beach event was one of thousands held in communities across the nation, commemorating Juneteenth, just days after President Biden signed a new law, making Juneteenth an official federal holiday, which made these celebrations even more glorious.

The politicians in Congress, many of them facing reelection in 2022, wasted no time in declaring Juneteenth a national holiday. For those Republicans who voted on this new federal holiday, it was hypocritical, said Linton-Pryor, but a victory.

While all but a handful of House Republicans and every GOP senator voting in favor of Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday, still many Republican members of the Senate and House stand united in national GOP efforts to suppress the vote targeted against many Americans, but specifically people of color.  Republicans are doing it out of fear, and they believe the lie of Donald J. Trump’s false claims about a “stolen” election, said Linton-Pryor.

At the Juneteenth celebration in Myrtle Beach, Black school children danced and sang in celebration, their young voices lifted into a persistent rain, but the rain could not and would not stop their celebration.

Two out-of-town visitors, Elle Graham and his wife, Juanita, of Raeford, NC, watched, happy they had made the near three-hour drive to join in the Juneteenth celebration.

“It’s important to recognize our history,” said Graham. “Our ancestors were slaves, but they were freed but in Galveston they did not know until two years after Lincoln signed that Emancipation Proclamation. This is not fake news; this is real.”

“When I seen the Republicans pass it unanimously, Graham said, ‘Man, that’s an act of God. Then when I seen the House pass it except for 14 people, I said something is going on. You, know, you can suppress the truth for a long time, but you can’t suppress it forever. So, it’s time for the truth to come to the surface, and it did. And Biden signed it.”

But, said Graham, “we have a long way to go.”

“Indeed, we do,” said HCDP’s Linton-Pryor. “And we need to start by passing the voting rights bill that Republicans in the Senate are blocking. We cannot let politicians silence our voices or suppress our votes. Every eligible American deserves a voice in our democracy, and a vote.”

GOP Obstruction

Ironically, on the day that President Biden signed the Juneteenth federal holiday bill, Senate Republicans vowed they would prevent voting reform legislation from advancing later this month. They rejected a compromise by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) that included some GOP ideas in a bid to break partisan gridlock that has prevented the bill’s passage.

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refuses to budge, so Republicans will filibuster the bill and prevent its passage.

Parts of the bill are intended to overrule provisions contained in numerous GOP-passed state laws that have placed restrictions on early voting, mail-in voting, ballot drop boxes and other policies that would make it easier to cast a ballot. Those laws have been enacted in response to former president Donald Trump’s false claims of a stolen 2020 presidential election.

“I’ve taken a look at all the new state laws — none of them are designed to suppress the vote,” McConnell said Thursday. “There is no rational basis for the federal government to take over all of American elections.”

“What else would we expect from McConnell?” said Linton-Pryor. “And our own senators, Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, are doing nothing. It’s typical of McConnell, and typical of today’s Republican Party, and it emphasizes the importance of making sure we elect Democrats to Congress in 2022.”

Linton-Pryor challenged McConnell’s statement that “there is no room for the federal government in assuring that elections in our country are fair”. “We must work to ensure that everyone has an opportunity and right to vote, and that their vote is protected and not suppressed.

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