As Juneteenth was celebrated across the country on Monday, Governor Maura Healey said the holiday comes at a pivotal time as lawmakers in other states seek to “ban the very history of our nation from being taught.”

“In the face of that, we are all committed here to leaning, to doubling down, to not giving up any ground — and we will not give up ground,” Healey said at a flag-raising ceremony at the State House. “We’ve got to keep fighting every single day to dismantle systemic racism in all its forms, across all realms, whether it’s health care, the workplace, in government, in schools and colleges.”

Healey referenced a forthcoming Supreme Court decision on the use of race in college admissions, which legal analysts believe the conservative-led court will likely end. Healey said the ruling will “probably [be a] terribly misguided decision.”

“But we are not going to go backwards,” she said.

In 2020, Massachusetts passed a bill to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday, embracing the legislation after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. It was a moment that shook the country and gave momentum to a bill that had long stalled on Beacon Hill, State Representative Bud Williams said.

“We’ve been celebrating Juneteenth for a very long time as Black people. It’s just an official holiday now,” said Williams, a Springfield Democrat and president of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus. “This is our Fourth of July.”

Juneteenth marks the day in 1865, two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, when Union Army troops announced to enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, that they were free.

On Monday, Black lawmakers noted the gains they’ve made in the State House in recent years. With 24 representatives and senators, the caucus has more than doubled its membership from the nine-member group that Representative Russell Holmes, a Mattapan Democrat, said he first joined 12 years ago.

For the first time, the Senate has two Black members, Boston’s Lydia Edwards and Liz Miranda, Edwards said. The four Black and Latino senators outnumber the three Republicans in the chamber, Edwards said.

“And I say that not just to provide some levity, but also to acknowledge how far we’ve come as a state,” Edwards said.

In Roxbury, hundreds of people gathered on the front lawn of the Dillaway-Thomas House for the raising of a flag commemorating the holiday. Mayor Michelle Wu linked Juneteenth’s legacy to her personal experience coming from an immigrant family.

”In Boston, for the first time in my life, I felt a sense of hope and belonging,” Wu said. “And I think it’s the ethos of the city. Our history, for centuries, has been tied to making sure that everyone belongs, that we are willing to do whatever it takes to stand up. And I’m so grateful … we’re starting to tell that story, to actually include those who made it possible for us to be where we are today.”

Ben Haith, the creator of the Juneteenth flag, was honored at the ceremony and donned a sash emblazoned with his name over a Red Sox jersey as he addressed the crowd.

”I’ve learned that Juneteenth is the spirit,” Haith said. “The spirit that emanates from our ancestors. … We’re at this bringing about a new awakening.”

Private Steve Abrams and other members of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment raised the flag, which flapped gently in the breeze as a trumpet played. The regiment was one of the first Black regiments to serve in the US Civil War.

”We’re commemorating the becoming of a more perfect union,” Abrams said before the event. “So that’s why we’re here today. It means a lot. It means a lot just to talk to the kids and see the kids living history and educating everyone.”

After the ceremony, hundreds of people marched up Roxbury Street waving flags and streamers. Sheila Gunn, 68, of Mattapan, cheered as the parade passed by.

”It’s only been in recent years that I’ve celebrated Juneteenth, and it’s been more of a reflective day for me than anything,” Gunn said. “Fourth of July was really not about us. We weren’t free at the time, so there was no independence. This is our celebration.”

Juneteenth became a holiday in Massachusetts in 2020, and President Biden signed legislation passed by Congress in 2021 to make it a federal holiday. The holiday has also been called Juneteenth Independence Day, Freedom Day, second Independence Day, and Emancipation Day.

“Today, we reflect on both bondage and freedom — on our legacy and our promise,” US Representative Katherine Clark, a Revere Democrat, said in a statement. “We honor those who have organized, fought, and shed blood in the struggle for equality. And, we renew our commitment to rooting out discrimination, injustice, and violence wherever they may arise.”


Original story HERE