Kamala Harris Joins Forces With Lawmakers To Make Juneteenth A National Holiday

Erin Corbett
UNITED STATES – JANUARY 27: Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., walks through the Senate Reception Room to the Senate chamber for the start of the Senate impeachment trial proceedings on Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES – JANUARY 27: Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., walks through the Senate Reception Room to the Senate chamber for the start of the Senate impeachment trial proceedings on Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Friday is Juneteenth, recognized as the day that thousands of enslaved people in Texas learned they were free more than 150 years ago. It’s an important day in American history, one that remains meaningful to millions of Black Americans. That’s why lawmakers are now pushing for Juneteenth to become a national holiday. 

Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, and Republican Sen. John Coryn plan to introduce bills in Congress to officially recognize the day as a national holiday. Harris says she is also working with Sens. Tina Smith, Ed Markey and Cory Booker on the bill. 

“On Juneteenth, we reflect on the past and rejoice in the progress made,” Harris wrote for USA Today. “On this day, we recognize the hard-fought road that led to the emancipation of enslaved people and recommit ourselves to America’s promise of equal justice for all.”

Juneteenth is currently observed in some form in 47 states and the District of Columbia. Hawaii, North Dakota and South Dakota are the only states that currently do not recognize the holiday, while New York, Virginia, Oregon and Philadelphia announced this week that they will also recognize the day an official holiday.

For years, Congressional leaders in both the House and Senate have passed resolutions to recognize Juneteenth as Independence Day, but legislation to declare it a national holiday has stalled. Now may be the time to push forward the holiday, as Juneteenth has gained national attention this year, especially in relation to the ongoing protests for Black liberation and amid calls to defund and abolish the police. 

Calls to recognize Juneteenth as a federal holiday have been louder more recently, just as the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s ushered in a period of renewed attention to efforts around recognizing the day nationally. 

Even as they introduce legislation now to make Juneteenth a national holiday, lawmakers acknowledge it could take many years still for that to happen. But Rep. Jackson Lee sees this moment as an important one to increase awareness of the day and the legacy of American slavery. 

“There needs to be a reckoning, an effort to unify. One thing about national holidays, they help educate people about what the story is,” Jackson Lee told TIME. “Juneteenth legislation is a call for freedom, but it also reinforces the history of African Americans. We’ve fought for this country. We’ve made great strides, but we’re still the victims of sharp disparities.”

Rep. Jackson Lee herself introduces a resolution every year to observe Juneteenth, and helped introduce the legislation this year to recognize it as a national holiday with more than 200 co-sponsors.

Black activists are also shedding light on what this day means, particularly right now. “On this Juneteenth, as we are having a new conversation about what freedom looks like, let’s think about the role that police play in keeping Black people from being free,” Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter wrote for USA Today. “Let’s think about the role jails play in keeping Black people from being free. Let’s think about how every single moment this country used Black bodies as slave labor.”

Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

Is Trump Really Columbusing Juneteenth?

How I Am Reflecting On Juneteenth This Year

Juneteenth And America's Unkept Promise

More From

  • The Best HEPA-Filter Air Purifiers To Buy For COVID-19

    From handwashing to hand sanitizer, non-medical face masks, social distance, and self-quarantine, the precautionary measures we’ve taken against COVID-19 continue to evolve as the pandemic pushes on. The latest tool in our lineup of virus-spread prevention? Air purifiers — or, more specifically, HEPA filtration systems.Although the CDC states that the main threat of infection is thought to be spread through close person-to-person contact, there’s still a reported air quality improvement case to be made for protection against airborne transmission starting with a building’s or home’s ventilation. According to a CNN article that consulted with Harvard environmental health researcher Joseph Gardner Allen, and, in lieu of a statement made by Governor Cuomo: properly ventilated buildings with high-efficiency air filtration systems can be an initial line of defense against the coronavirus. Which brings us to HEPA: If you’ve considered purchasing an air purifier or already own one, then you may be familiar with this four-letter filter but may not know what it actually entails. HEPA (which stands for “high efficiency particulate air”) filters are rated at the top of their class for their ability to trap tiny particles in the air (around at least 99.97%, theoretically). But, it’s this star quality that also makes it difficult (and expensive) to install HEPA filters on larger multi-room scales (e.g. as part of an entire home’s ventilation system). This is why we so often see these top-performing filters employed inside smaller, room-by-room air purifier models. TLDR: Handwashing, maintaining social distance, and the use of protective face coverings are proven impactful methods for preventing the spread of COVID-19. But, employing the use of a high-quality filtration system inside your home can also help when layered in with the aforementioned precautions. Although expensive, HEPA-filter air purifiers keep recycled air clean inside small enclosed spaces — and we’ve lined up the retailers along with featured products that best fit that bill below. COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources. Amazon Bed Bath & Beyond Wayfair Dyson WalmartAt Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. All product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Eco Face Masks That Are Kinder On The PlanetWhere To Buy DIY Face Mask FiltersRefresh Your Space With These Top Air Purifiers

  • As Millions Suffer From Unemployment, The Catholic Church Gets $1.4 Billion In Relief Funds

    The U.S. Roman Catholic Church successfully lobbied government officials to make an exception from federal rules to include the church in the Paycheck Protection Program, despite not meeting specific requirements. Because of this exemption, at least $1.4 billion in taxpayer-backed coronavirus aid has been awarded to the church. And, there is reason to believe that the total payout may have exceeded $3.5 billion, making the global religious institution one of the biggest recipients in the U.S. government’s pandemic relief efforts. According to an analysis of federal data conducted by the Associated Press, millions of dollars are “going to dioceses that have paid huge settlements or sought bankruptcy protection because of clergy sexual abuse cover-ups.” Data shows that the majority of the church’s money was approved during the loan program’s first two weeks. However, in that same time, many local businesses were unable to receive loans from the initial $349 billion funding to the program because it was first-come, first-served. In total, nearly 500 loans exceeding $1 million each were approved for Catholic entities. At least eight reached the maximum payout range of $5-10 million. Among the listed recipients are the offices of bishops, major churches, headquarters of leading religious orders, schools, and chapters of catholic charities. Faith-based organizations that promote religious beliefs aren’t usually eligible for money from the U.S. Small Business Administration, reports the Boston Globe. When the coronavirus hit and millions became unemployed, Congress made an exception to let faith groups and other nonprofits apply for the Paycheck Protection Program under the same parameters as other businesses. The PPP’s 500-employee cap qualification for applicants would have otherwise meant that many Catholic dioceses would have been ineligible; however, religious groups reportedly lobbied the Trump administration for an exception. The Archdiocese of New York, for example, received 15 loans totaling at least $28 million that just goes toward its top executive offices. Forty dioceses that have spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the past few years paying settlements to those coming forward about their experiences of sexual abuse in the church. The AP’s review found that these dioceses were collectively approved for about $200 million, though the total could be higher because the government’s data – released after multiple news outlets sued Congress – didn’t name recipients of loans under $150,000.The exact amounts are difficult to quantify because the government released only ranges of loan amounts. The Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference reported that about 9,000 Catholic entities received loans. That is nearly three times the number of entities AP could identify, reports the Boston Globe. AP’s analysis showed that 407,900 jobs within the Catholic church and its affiliated organizations were retained with money awarded through the loan program.“The government grants special dispensation, and that creates a king of structural favoritism,” Micah Schwartzman, a University of Virginia law professor who studied the Paycheck Protection Program told the AP. “And that favoritism was worth billions of dollars.” The PPP was open to all religious groups, and many applied, including evangelical advisers to President Donald Trump and many big-name churches.At the same time, the U.S. Department of Labor reported unemployment claims have surpassed 44 million since the start of the coronavirus shutdowns. A study conducted by a Columbia University professor estimated that homelessness in the United States could grow as much as 45% in the next year as a result of the coronavirus and its crippling effect on the economy. Upon the news breaking, some publicly criticized the payouts claiming that scores of dioceses faced self-inflicted financial pressure as a result of hiding rampant sexual misconduct. > AP: After lobbying, Catholic Church won $1.4B in virus aid with much of it going to ones who’ve filed bankruptcy to protect themselves from sexual abuse settlements 🤯🤬🤮 https://t.co/K2RVLAzpwp> > — Bobby Berk (@bobbyberk) July 10, 2020> BREAKING: The Roman Catholic Church in the US received a staggering $1.4 billion in taxpayer-backed coronavirus aid, according to the AP. > > Why are those who don’t pay taxes getting to raid the bank that was built by taxpayers? > > Imagine if our schools got this money instead.> > — Mrs. Krassenstein (@HKrassenstein) July 10, 2020> Millions of struggling Americans have lost their jobs, lost their health insurance, can’t get a Covid test, can’t go to school, and can’t pay their rent, and we’re spending billions of dollars to support the multi-billion-dollar Catholic Church.https://t.co/rDdBuljHvv> > — Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) July 10, 2020It is difficult to ascertain the total wealth of the Catholic church, but reported estimates and investigations estimate that just within the United States, the entity is valued at tens of billions. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Here’s When All The COVID-19 Relief Measures EndHow Teachers Benefit From The Education BailoutCelebrities Who Got A PPP Loan From The Government

  • 13 Buzzy Lip Balms That Will Replace Your Cherry Chapstick

    Neon-bright eyeshadows in the summer. Moody black nail polishes in the winter. Floral fragrances for spring. We know, groundbreaking. But in 2020 — when we've all been stuck inside for so long that the seasons have all sort of blended together — fashion and beauty trends are following suit. The recent rise in loungewear clothing has led to a rise in loungewear makeup, including comforting lip-care products that you'd typically see in the colder months. But these tinted glosses, cushiony balms, and glossy oils are far more appealing than the half-used tub of Carmex buried in the pocket of your winter coat. From Summer Fridays to KNC Beauty, some of your favorite skin-care brands have taken on the lip-care category with gorgeous results. Whether you're looking to keep your mouth moisturized under your face mask or you want shiny, plump lips for your next FaceTime date, we've rounded up some of the best launches hitting the beauty aisle, ahead. At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

  • Valentina Sampaio Just Became The First Trans Sports Illustrated Model

    For the first time in the 56-year history of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue, the annual special edition will feature a trans model: Valentina Sampaio. The 23-year-old Brazilian-born model previously made history by starring on the cover of French Vogue’s March 2017 issue, and later, in 2019, as Victoria’s Secret’s first-ever trans model. But the model hasn’t always experienced the kind of acceptance and praise that she’s garnering now. In an essay written by Sampaio for the issue, she shared her story of being born in a remote fishing village in Brazil, where trans people are subject to the world’s highest rate of violent crimes and murders — “three times that of the U.S.” “Being trans usually means facing closed doors to peoples’ hearts and minds,” she wrote. “We face snickers, insults, fearful reactions and physical violations just for existing.”For these reasons and so many more, Sampaio’s inclusion in this year’s swimsuit edition is monumental. “Thank you SI for seeing and respecting me as I truly am,” she wrote. “For understanding that more than anything, I am human. Thank you for supporting me in continuing to spread a message of love, compassion and unity for ALL.”Despite this being the first time that Sports Illustrated has included a trans model in the edition, it isn’t the Swimsuit Issue’s first historic casting. In fact, it’s, in part, responsible for catapulting the career of model Ashley Graham who, in 2016, became the Swimsuit Issue’s first-ever plus-size model. The magazine also selected model Halima Aden — who wore a hijab and burkini during her SI shoot — for its 2019 issue. This move by Sports Illustrated arrives following calls for justice for the trans community. In May, Tony McDade, a Black trans man, was shot and killed by police in Tallahassee, Florida. At the time, McDade was the 11th reported trans and/or gender non-confirming death by shooting of the year. A month later, news followed of the murder of a Black trans woman named Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells in Philadelphia. A few days later, people gathered together in Brooklyn to honor Black trans lives, with nearly everyone in attendance wearing white.Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Victoria's Secret Has Hired Its First Trans ModelFrench <em>Vogu</em>e's First Transgender Cover ModelHalima Aden Models A Burkini In <em>Sports Illustrated</em>