OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — There’s a big push to make Juneteenth, observed every June 19th to celebrate the end of slavery, a national holiday following recent incidents of civil unrest.
There will be a number of Juneteenth events in the Bay Area this Friday, but the focal point will be at the Port of Oakland where longshoremen will shut down the port to demand racial equality. For eight hours in the first shift, the cranes and the machinery at all 29 ports on the West Coast will remain silent.
More than 10,000 workers with the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU) will participate in the work stoppage on Juneteeth. They plan to march from the Port of Oakland to city hall to protest police brutality and systemic racism.
“We built this country and we need to be recognized in this country,” said Sean Graham, a member of ILWU Local 10.
“It’s time that labor put its labor where its mouth is,” said ILWU Local 10 President Trent Willis.
Two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed and went info effect, a Union general in Galveston, Texas announced to the people there the end of slavery. That date was June 19th 1865.
Willis said more than 150 years later, they are still fighting for equality.
“We’re still not free. If we’re not free to walk the streets without getting killed by law enforcement, then we’re not free. If the wealth gap disproportionately, negatively affects African Americans, then we’re still not free. If we don’t have adequate access to health care, then we are still not free.”
Tech companies like Twitter and Google recently announced Juneteeth will be a paid holiday. Black leaders pointed out those companies employ very few workers of color. Reverend Dr. Lawrence VanHook Sr. with Community Christian Church in West Oakland said if companies truly want change, then they need to partner with local organizations to close the digital divide.
“Black lives matter, and until we not only say that, but until we give equity to Black Lives Matter, we will continue to have the disparities in this country,” said VanHook. “We want equity. We want a level playing field.”
A growing number of companies, including the Golden State Warriors, have announced they will observe Juneteeth and participate in community events on Friday.
U.S. Senator Kamala Harris tweeted she will introduce a bill to make Juneteenth a national holiday.