JTF Statement on Juneteenth 2021

juneteenth_art.pngMore than 150 years after abolishing chattel slavery in the Confederate States, we join the United States of America as it celebrates what has always been an important tradition for Black Americans. 

As we celebrate, we understand that being 150 years removed from a 400 year institution of depravity means that the fight for the real liberation of Black Americans is not over -- especially here in Maryland, where slavery did not end until November 1, 1864 and forced apprenticeships and property requirements for voting kept those formerly enslaved in a posture of subordination.



 

juneteenth_art.pngThe Progressive Maryland Justice Task Force issued the following statement following the Congressional announcement of Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday:

 

More than 150 years after abolishing chattel slavery in the Confederate States, we join the United States of America as it celebrates what has always been an important tradition for Black Americans. 

As we celebrate, we understand that being 150 years removed from a 400 year institution of depravity means that the fight for the real liberation of Black Americans is not over -- especially here in Maryland. 

In fact, it is important to note that slavery did not end in Maryland until November 1, 1864. Even then, former slaveholders forced many Black people under the age of 21 into apprenticeships. 

In 1870, when Black men gained the right to vote, Maryland enacted property requirements for voters, barring all men without land from voting. Few African-Americans owned farms or homes. 

That harmful legacy of the state marginalizing Black Marylanders continues. Today, Black Marylanders are: 

 

  • More likely to be killed by law enforcement than any other racial or ethnic group. 69% of people who have died in a police encounter in MD were Black and 41% of them were unarmed. (ACLU-MD)

  • 4x more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people even though both races use cannabis at the same rates. (NORML)

  • Faced with sentences that are 20% longer than white men charged with the same offense if they are Black men in the federal system (ACLU)

  • Almost 2x more likely to suffer from Asthma if they live in Baltimore City where the rate of asthma among Black children is 17% and among Puerto Rican children is 20%, as compared to the asthma rates for white children at 10% and Asian children at 8%. (Johns Hopkins Medicine)

  • Less likely to smoke than their white counterparts but still more likely to develop and die of lung cancer due to a higher chance of living in proximity to a coal-fired plant or other environmental hazards and toxins. (NAACP)

  • More likely to live in a food desert, and in Baltimore City, that’s 34% of Black residents that live in a food desert, including 30% of Black school-age children that have no access to healthy food. (Johns Hopkins Center for a Liveable Future).

 

And the list of disproportionate impacts of historical injustice towards Black communities goes on. So, while we welcome the opportunity to celebrate the monumental moment of Juneteenth being recognized as a federal holiday,  we encourage our state and local governments to enact laws that protect and enhance the lives of Black Marylanders. We deserve to be safe and valued. Our communities deserve to thrive. And so there’s still work to do to get there.

 

Happy Juneteenth!