Juneteenth is a federal holiday now, Black activists say still more work ahead

It's the first year that Juneteenth is celebrated as a federal holiday and while many people are rejoicing, some say there is still more work that needs to be done. 

"The declaration of a federal holiday doesn’t get us any closer to liberation, and so there’s still a lot of work that needs to do," said James Burch, Anti Police-Terror Project Policy Director.

On Saturday, the sounds of music, laughter, and pure joy rang out across the Bay Area.

 "This is the first year that we are celebrating Juneteenth as a federal holiday, so it’s exciting," said Loren Taylor, Oakland Councilmember D-6.

But for many black Americans, Thursday's bill signing ceremony was long overdue. 

"We understand this should’ve been done years ago but only because of the climate of America, it was something that was pushed through," said original Black Panther, Dr. Saturu Ned. 

Dr. Ned tells me that Opal Lee fought for a decade to make Juneteenth a nationally recognized holiday. 

So, there's a sense of appreciation is finally getting acknowledgement for the day that black slaves in Texas were told they'd been emancipated. There is also a sense of hope; hope that this action will lead to positive change.  

"Now it’s going to be something that America is going to have to face," said Dr. Ned. 

Juneteenth became a federal holiday more than a year after Americans nationwide hit the streets to protest racial injustice following the killing of George Floyd.

Bay Area black activists and community leaders alike don't want making Juneteenth a federal holiday to get lost in the shuffled of issues that need to be addressed, like police reform and unbiased education.

"We need to not just stop with legislation being passed or a day being commemorated but we have to keep pushing so that we really do implement the changes," said Councilmember Taylor. 

So, as everyone takes to the streets to enjoy this new federal holiday, and the day off from work that comes with it, Bay Area activists and community leaders want to remind everyone to take this opportunity to reflect on where we've come from as a nation and where we still need to go. 

"There is a long trend of abuses and it’s up to this generation and generations previous to come together and say enough is enough," said Dr. Ned.