Watch: A conversation on Juneteenth and Black political power
On Friday, June 18, Axios justice and race reporter Russ Contreras and Axios Today host Niala Boodhoo unpacked the historical significance of Juneteenth and discussed Black political power in the U.S., featuring Harvard University professor Annette Gordon-Reed, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), and 7 Generations Movement Collective owner and director Demetria Rougeaux Shabazz, Ph.D. The virtual event took place the morning after President Biden signed legislation establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee unpacked the passage of legislation making Juneteeth a federal holiday and legislative action around addressing systemic racism in America.
- On Juneteenth being signed in as a federal holiday: "It was an unthinkable moment...To be able to see both a bipartisan unanimous consent in the Senate and an actual vote in the House of Representatives...[a] day that we never thought would come."
- On what comes next: "We have work to do and that we should undermine what we just did, not that we should diminish it. Now you can vote...to give us voting rights to protect against voter suppression laws. You can give us a commission that will study slavery and develop a repair pathway that deals with what happened and what is happening to those who are the descendants of enslaved Africans, the disparities that you find today in the black community."
Professor Annette Gordon-Reed discussed the historical significance of Juneteenth, the role of historians in making sense of the current moment, and the importance of revisiting history,
- “[Historians] look at the same material and ask different questions about it…[We] try to reconstitute it so that we can understand the past and maybe understand ourselves a little bit better. So we're always revising.”
7 Generations Movement Collective owner and director Demetria Rougeaux Shabazz discussed the importance of learning about the history of slavery in schools and honestly teaching American history to students.
- “It's about really reconciling with our hands and commemorating that past and then celebrating the possibilities of not only being an African-American but what we can be as a nation.”
Axios Vice President of Communications Yolanda Brignoni hosted a View from the Top segment with Racial Equality and Economic Opportunity Executive at Bank of America, Ebony A. Thomas, who discussed how the banking sector can work directly with communities of color.
- "The way that you overcome hurdles and you break barriers is to give these communities access to capital, but also give them access to information. You break down walls of networks, you wrap services around them. So not only is it about the creation of the business, but it's also about the longevity and survival of the business."
Thank you Bank of America for sponsoring this event.