By Sydney Brown | Washington State Journal 

Rep. Kirsten Harris-Talley, D-Seattle, often sees her grandmother’s features when she looks in the mirror. She thinks of how her grandmother, a woman of color, experienced systemic racism and fought for a better life despite societal barriers in rural Missouri only a few generations before Harris-Talley.

Harris-Talley told the House of Representatives Feb. 25 she supported Juneteenth as a state holiday because of the existence of structural racism in the country today. She said what may seem like a simple acknowledgement could go a long way in building an “antiracist society,” one she wants her own two children to grow in.

“We need to sit with those realities and have reflection on how we give service to addressing racial inequity and injustice,” she said.

June 19th took one step closer to being recognized as a state holiday after the House of Representatives voted 89-8 Feb. 25 in favor of Juneteenth, the day most African American enslaved people learned of their legal freedom. HB 1016 marks one of several attempts this session to address the lasting, systemic effects of slavery and racism in the country.

“The time is now. This bill is more than just about a holiday,” said the bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Melanie Morgan, D-Tacoma. “It is about true recognition and acknowledgement that chattel slavery did happen in this country.”

Juneteenth 2019
Lynnwood Times Photo by Mario Lotmore. 2019 Juneteenth NAACP event.

The law garnered support from both Democrats and Republicans, though some Republican lawmakers took issue with the fiscal impact of the bill, which would cost the state around $7 million of paid leave for state employees to take off work June 19.

Morgan said she understood the fiscal impact, but mentioned the country and Washington state in particular benefited from more than $3 trillion made “off the backs of enslaved people.”

“It’s not even close to the real cost of racial injustice,” she said.

After then-President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862, news did not spread to Southern plantations for more than two years. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865 that many enslaved people learned of their legal freedom.

Rep. Mike Volz, R-Spokane, supported the bill, saying he considered himself a history buff but was surprised at how little he, and many Washingtonians, knew about this historic day.

“It’s important to acknowledge the fact that Americans came together — white and black — to work to free the slaves,” Volz said.

HB 1016 will move on to the Senate for further consideration.

Mario Lotmore

Mario Lotmore is originally from The Bahamas and for the last seven years has called Mukilteo, WA his home. Having lived in every region of the United States has exposed him to various cultures, people, and approaches to life. Lotmore created the Lynnwood Times to represent the character of a diverse and growing Lynnwood. The launching of the city’s community newspaper will only help bring neighborhoods together. Lotmore was an industrial engineer by trade and proven success implementing and managing lean accountable processes and policies within his eighteen years of operations excellence, strategic development, and project management in the aerospace, manufacturing, and banking industries. Over his career he has saved and created hundreds of union and non-union jobs. Lotmore is the President of a Homeowner Association, an active Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics volunteer in his community, and former Boeing 747 Diversity Council leader. Mario’s talent is finding “that recipe” of shared destiny to effectively improve the quality of life for others.

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