Washington, D.C.—This Sunday, Church World Service will mark Juneteenth, the oldest observed commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, by honoring the struggle of African Americans for justice and their courage in combatting systemic racism in all walks of life. The organization mourns the lives of Black Americans lost to racist violence this past year, and pledges to continue its efforts to ensure social, political, and economic justice for Black communities across the United States.
To commemorate Juneteenth, Rev. Reuben Eckels, Domestic Policy Advocate at Church World Service, issued the following statement:
“Juneteenth is a powerful day in our country, it is a celebration of freedom, an elegy for those lost in the pursuit of justice, and a rallying cry to combat systemic racism.
“This year we saw the powerful and historic confirmation of the first African American woman to our nation’s highest judicial body, when Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson became a Supreme Court justice. It was a moment that will inspire future generations and it fulfilled a dream long held by Black women in America.
“But this year we also saw the horrific killings of ten black Americans in Buffalo by a man driven to murder by white supremacist fearmongering. In Grand Rapids, we saw a former refugee, Patrick Lyoyo, shot in the back of the head at point-blank range by a police officer during a traffic stop. And at our southern border, we saw two Haitian asylum seekers, Jocelyn Anselme and Calory Archange, die after being forced to wait in Mexico while they waited for over a year for a fair hearing under a cruel U.S. asylum rule.
“Thus it has been for far too long: one step forward, two steps back. We celebrate the proud advancements by Black Americans and then mourn lives lost to wanton violence and structural racism. At the core of it all is the persistent stain of slavery; it drives the killing, incarceration and impoverization of our people, it remains the single greatest obstacle to our country becoming the nation we all dream that it can be.
“The spirit behind Juneteenth is that dream, but our rallying cry cannot be reserved just for this day, it must be the driving force of every day. The fight is too important, the lives are too dear, and the dream is too precious to act any other way.”
Rick Santos, President and CEO of CWS, added, “Church World Service stands with Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities on Juneteenth and every day of the year. We do so by combatting racism and discrimination in every aspect of our work, and we strive to advance justice across every aspect of American life. To our Black colleagues, partners, and clients, today we celebrate Juneteenth with you, tomorrow we stand by you.”
For more information on Church World Service’s Platform on Racial Justice