Two years ago, we commemorated Juneteenth with a blog post urging you to celebrate the day with a vote. Since then, our right to vote has remained under an escalating, even bolder attack.
Juneteenth is meant to be a celebration of the end of slavery. While the Emancipation Proclamation freed enslaved people throughout the Confederacy in 1863, states still under Confederate control refused to abide by it.
Texas was one of those states, and remained the last holdout – for nearly two and a half years. The change came when Union troops arrived and their commander, U.S. Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, issued General Order No. 3 on June 19, 1865, which informed the people of Texas that all enslaved people – more than 250,000 souls – were now free.
Over the years, June 19th became Juneteenth, recognized as the true Emancipation Day, celebrating not only freedom but the ongoing fight to protect it. But more than 150 years later, the shackles of systemic racism are still holding us down. And the widespread effort to keep people of color from the ballot box is one of the most effective tools of our oppressors.
There is hope, though. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that Alabama’s attempt to gerrymander Black voters into a single congressional district – despite the fact that they account for more than 25 percent of the state’s population – was indeed a violation of the Voting Rights Act.
This means that Alabama will have to redraw its district maps, ensuring that Black voters have an opportunity to elect someone to Congress who adequately and effectively represents their needs and interests. And with similar cases being fought in Georgia, Louisiana, and other states, these decisions could help reshape Congress in the 2024 election.
But the key phrase here is Black voters. While there was a clear improvement in turnout among voters of color in the 2020 election, the percentage of people of color who voted (58 percent) still trails the percentage of whites who voted (71 percent) by a significant margin. We need to close that gap to ensure that we elect a government that truly represents us, as opposed to a government that continues to oppress us.
Early voting is underway here in New York City, and runs through Sunday, June 25th, 2023. The Primary Election is a critical opportunity to elect the best possible candidates for the General Election in November 2023. While not every district has a City Council candidate on the ballot, many do, and every ballot has judicial candidates on them.
Voting is your right, one that generations before us fought for throughout the Civil Rights movement and beyond. And we think it is also your duty. At WE ACT, we work hard to advocate for environmental justice, but much of our success depends on who you send to City Hall, Albany, and Washington, DC. We need leaders who understand the burdens of environmental racism and are committed to pursuing justice-based solutions. We cannot succeed without your help, and it starts at the ballot box.
In celebration of Juneteenth, and in defense of the freedoms that we have remaining today, we ask you – once again – to celebrate with a vote. Click here to find out where your early voting location is, where you can vote on Election Day (June 27th, 2023), and other information about voting in the June 2023 Primary Election.
The best way to protect our right to vote is by exercising the right to vote!