GARY — A Northwest Indiana lawmaker is calling on his General Assembly colleagues to demonstrate their commitment to improving the lives of black Hoosiers by designating June 19 — Juneteenth — as an annual state holiday.
Juneteenth commemorates the official end of slavery in the United States following the 1865 Union victory over the rebellious southern states in the American Civil War.
Melton said each year a growing number of the 630,000 black Hoosiers honor the day "where we as a nation finally rejected a system of forced labor, horrific treatment and the separation of our black American families in the United States."
"This current-day justice movement has recently forced a much-needed mirror in the face of America, as we have a renewed realization that the country's official end of slavery birthed a new American system that used existing prejudices to legally discriminate against black Americans,” Melton said.
"Now more than ever, we need our white allies to understand the consequences systemic racism has had in America, but we also need them to join us as we fight to fix the problems we still endure today, including our children who attend underfunded schools, our families who are denied access to health care and black Americans who are treated unfairly in the justice system."
Melton said progress toward those ends can begin by having the Republican-controlled Legislature formally establish Juneteenth as a state holiday when Hoosier lawmakers return to the Statehouse in January.
Juneteenth previously was recognized by the Indiana General Assembly in 2010 when it unanimously adopted House Concurrent Resolution 38 celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation, and urging the establishment of a national Juneteenth holiday.
On Friday, Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb also issued a proclamation commemorating Juneteenth and urging Hoosiers to use the day as "an opportunity to reflect, rejoice and plan for a brighter future as we continue to address racial injustices in our society."
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