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Juneteenth. Our work is far from done.

Today we celebrate Juneteenth, a federal holiday commemorating freedom for enslaved Black people in the United States. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, but enslaved people in Galveston, Texas were not informed of their release from servitude until June 19, 1865. The day has become a celebrated anniversary marking freedom and independence for Black Americans.

President Joe Biden signed a bill declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday in 2021 as the country was roiling in the fight for racial equity and justice demonstrating that our work is far from done. Our community in Portland, Oregon has been called out and called upon to scrutinize our collective history and reckon with racial justice.

Black, Brown and Indigenous people continue to suffer disproportionately in justice, health care, economic and educational systems that were created and historically administered to exclude, not serve them.

The pandemic has made all of this worse.

I'm working to ensure that all I do in Congress is viewed through a racial and social justice lens. In my work, I am spotlighting some of the systemic racism that has been shamefully embedded in federal policies, and will continue working to undo it. I'm proud to be an original cosponsor of H.R. 40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act.

Restorative justice is also a reason why I spend so much time on cannabis reform. People of color have spent more than 50 years experiencing higher rates of incarceration, violence, and poverty because of the deplorable and failed War on Drugs. It is time for this era to end.

Housing is another area where well documented accounts of "red lining" and discriminatory lending practices denied Black and Brown people the opportunity of homeownership. The failure to keep rental housing affordable is harming families and communities. I'm working with the Administration and housing champions in Congress and in Oregon to pass legislation that will start to reverse decades of disinvestment by the federal government, stabilize the housing crisis, and strengthen anti-discriminatory lending laws.

The escalating impacts of climate disasters must also be dealt with from an equity and justice lens. There are wide-ranging, acute, and fatal public health consequences from climate change that disproportionately impact communities of color. Also vulnerable are the elderly, children, and people with chronic health concerns. My National Climate Emergency Act outlines steps the President can take to address the climate emergency while centering environmental justice. This month I am also introducing a climate resilience bill that modernizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency's definition of an underserved community and would allow post disaster aid to flow more easily to previously overlooked communities.

Today, we remember that without equal justice for all, there can be no true freedom. As I reflect on Juneteenth, my commitment is to continue fighting to help all Americans, and Oregonians, live healthier, safer, and more secure lives. I look forward to doing that work together with you.



Posted on June 19, 2022.