This week we reflect on and celebrate the resilience and determination of Black Americans as the GIP office observes Juneteenth.
Juneteenth is a holiday that commemorates June 19th, 1865, the day that news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached the last of the enslaved people in Galveston, Texas.
This past year, President Biden signed a bill officially recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday, and in April of this year, Governor Kemp signed legislation that makes the federal Juneteenth holiday a paid day off for Georgia employees. The law was passed after decades of work to have the holiday nationally recognized by activists like Opal Lee– often referred to as the Grandmother of Juneteenth.
While many people are glad to have the day recognized, it’s important we acknowledge the fact that, while progress has been made over the past 150 years, Black people are still facing major injustices and barriers that are hindering more meaningful progress. One of those injustices is mass incarceration.
Although comprising only ~13% of the population, Black people in our country are incarcerated in state prisons at nearly 5 times the rate of white Americans (The Sentencing Project) and makeup about 60% of wrongful convictions proven through post-conviction DNA testing (National Registry of Exonerations).
In the face of recent- and repeated- tragic events and national outrage, our position is that we cannot effectively advocate on behalf of our wrongfully convicted clients if we do not also work to address the systemic racism and racial bias that breeds unreliable convictions, unjust and inequitable treatment, government indifference, and lack of accountability.
This Juneteenth we encourage you to use the holiday as an opportunity to educate yourself as we continue working to address the main causes of wrongful convictions in Georgia and prevent more in the future. For local resources, check out the links below and let us know about your Juneteenth plans in the comments.