Jackson Lee calls Juneteenth ‘a moment of great emotion’ amid push for reparations commission

·2 min read

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), who helped lead efforts to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, said on Sunday that this year’s celebration is a moment to reflect on both the “jubilation of freedom” and the “brutality of slavery.”

“It is a moment of great emotion,” Jackson Lee told co-anchor Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“It is a moment of passion and compassion because slavery was enormously brutal,” she continued. “And the discussion and information and history about slavery has not been at the center point of America’s story.”

President Biden last June signed into law the bipartisan Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, which makes Juneteenth a paid federal holiday. Jackson Lee had introduced a House version of the bill and helped push the legislation to Biden’s desk.

The June 19 holiday recognizes the anniversary of when the remaining enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, were informed in 1865 of their freedom by the Emancipation Proclamation issued two years earlier.

“That’s what we want today to be part of: a remembrance, and that we never forget, again, not with hostility, but with healing and repair and bringing Americans together,” Jackson Lee said on Sunday.

Jackson Lee has also introduced a bill that would fund a commission to study reparations proposals for African Americans. Racial justice groups have pressed Biden to create the commission through executive action.

Jackson Lee on Sunday argued for a “two-track” proposal in which Biden takes action through executive order in addition to the legislation.

“What this does is talks about the modern-day disparities that connect directly from slavery,” Jackson Lee said.

“We can’t stop replacement theory, racism, because they don’t understand what slavery meant to America and to the people,” she added. “So I think the commission will be a bright light just as Juneteenth is.”

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