(Washington, DC) - As Senator Barack Obama makes great strides in becoming the nation's next president, Juneteenth supporters are hopeful that the "19th of June" will finally be established as a national holiday observance in America. Senator Barack Obama has been a key sponsor of Juneteenth legislation in the senate and keynote speaker at the annual Juneteenth Congressional Reception. This year, the 2008 WASHINGTON JUNETEENTH National Holiday Observance will feature "Juneteenth, A Grassroots Celebration of American Values, A Music Festival with zydeco, gospel, jazz and blues!"
President George W. Bush has been urged by Congress to recognize Juneteenth Independence Day by issuing a special Presidential Proclamation. President Bush, who has declined participation in the annual WASHINGTON JUNETEENTH National Holiday Observance since taking office in 2000, has perplexed national Juneteenth leaders by the lack of personal public acknowledgement and comment on Juneteenth, considered America's second Independence Day.
"President Bush is the former Governor of Texas, where Juneteenth has been observed as a paid state holiday since 1980," states Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D., Chairman of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF), host of the annual WASHINGTON JUNETEENTH National Holiday Observance at the nation's capitol. "With the urging of Congress through the unanimous passage of H. Con. Res. 231 by the House of Representatives and the unanimous passage of S. Res. 516 by the U.S. Senate, we are hopeful that President Bush will finally issue a Juneteenth Independence Day Proclamation. If not, we are confident that if Senator Barack Obama becomes president, he will certainly make Juneteenth a national holiday observance in America. We are also truly appreciative of the leadership Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-IL) has provided Juneteenth supporters through legislative efforts in Congress."
Juneteenth, or the "19th of June", recognizes June 19, 1865, in Galveston, TX, when Union General Gordon Granger announced freedom for all slaves in the Southwest. This was the last major vestige of slavery in the United States following the end of the Civil War. This occurred more than two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln. Upon the reading of General Order #3 by General Granger, the former slaves celebrated jubilantly, establishing America's second Independence Day Celebration and the oldest African-American holiday observance.
Juneteenth is now recognized as a state holiday or state holiday observance in Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Delaware, Idaho, Alaska, Iowa, California, Wyoming, Missouri, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Colorado, Arkansas, Oregon, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico, Virginia, Washington, Tennessee, Massachusetts and North Carolina. In 2003, the District of Columbia passed legislation to recognize Juneteenth as a district holiday observance. Many more states, including Utah, Alabama, Vermont, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Montana, Wisconsin and Maryland have recognized Juneteenth through state legislative resolutions, Gubernatorial Proclamations and current state holiday observance legislation.
Thousands of petitions have been forwarded to the White House urging President Bush to make Juneteenth a National Holiday Observance and to establish a National Juneteenth Commission to provide advice on how the annual observance of Juneteenth Independence Day can promote racial reconciliation and bring all Americans together through the celebration of our common bond of freedom. A National Day of Reconciliation and Healing From the Legacy of Slavery has also been established during the week that Juneteenth is celebrated.
"The US Capitol and the White House were built through the uncompensated labor of the ancestors of Americans of African descent during the tyranny of slavery," states Dr. Myers. "Why won't President Bush personally recognize and honor their sacrifice and contributions in building key institutions in America during Juneteenth?"
"The official recognition of Juneteenth Independence Day and the end of slavery by state governments and congress are very significant steps in bringing healing to America from the legacy of slavery," states Rev., Dr. Myers, also Chairman of the National Juneteenth Christian Leadership Council (NJCLC), sponsors of the Juneteenth National Day of Reconciliation and Healing From the Legacy of Slavery and the National Juneteenth Black Holocaust "MAAFA" Memorial Service in Washington, DC. "As the descendents of Americans of African descent, our ancestors were brought to America in chains. This should never be forgotten."
Dr. Myers worked closely with former Congressional Tony Hall (D-OH) in unsuccessful efforts to get a congressional apology for slavery.
"Introduced twice, the last time on Juneteenth Independence Day, the "19th of June", 2000, by former Congressman Tony Hall (D-OH), we never did get an apology for slavery passed by congress," states Dr. Myers. "This again demonstrates the need for America to be healed from the legacy of slavery."
Dr. Myers, who has was formerly appointed National Advisory Chairman of America's Black Holocaust Museum by museum's founder, the late Dr. James Cameron, a lynching survivor, has been encouraged by the Senate apology for lynching during the week of Juneteenth in 2005.
"Dr. Cameron taught me the importance of forgiveness, patience and reconciliation by his remarkable life," states Dr. Myers. "It lead to a Senate apology for lynching. Congress continues to demonstrate sensitivity to issues surrounding the legacy of slavery in America. We pray that President Bush will follow the example of congress by establishing Juneteenth Independence Day as a National Holiday Observance in America during his last year in office."
Dr. Myers has also been encouraged by the actions of French President M. Jacques Chirac who addressed the people of France during a 2006 National Day of Remembrance and Commeroration of Slavery and Its Abolition.
"We hope that President Bush will take the opportunity that the annual observance of Juneteenth affords him to lead the nation toward healing from the legacy of slavery," states Dr. Myers.
For information on the WASHINGTON JUNETEENTH 2008 National Holiday Observance and the National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign, call Dr. Myers at 662-247-3364, or 662-247-1471; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, web sites: www.Juneteenth.us, www.njclc.com and www.19thofJune.com.