On Wednesday, the city of Portland formally recognized Juneteenth, establishing June 19 as a formal day of remembrance and recognition. Juneteenth marks the day enslaved people in Texas were notified of their freedom two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863.
Amid a nation-wide uprising in response to police brutality and systemic anti-Black racism, on top of the recognition of Juneteenth, Council formally apologized for 400 years of systemic violence and oppression against Black people in our city and nation. This apology is but a small token in response to the centuries of violence and discrimination that continues to this day.
In addition to the apology and Juneteenth recognition, the city adopted the six core values to guide the city's decision-making and shape our workplace culture: anti-racism, equity, transparency, communication, collaboration and fiscal responsibility.
Beginning this Friday, June 19, will be a paid city holiday. Public safety employees who work on Friday will commemorate the holiday during an "all-call," with silence that lasts as long as a Minneapolis police officer forced his knee on George Floyd's neck.
If you are off work on Friday, please make it matter. We are calling on all city employees to commemorate Juneteenth in a way that is meaningful to you – and, if you are White, in a way that is challenging for you. Anti-racism work is not about one action, it's a lifelong journey. While we are all in different parts of this journey, we encourage you to dig deep in the discomfort and find ways to disrupt racism every day.
As public servants we all have a responsibility to respond to our institution's role in perpetuating systemic racism. Our hope is that the actions taken today pave the way to a more just and equitable Portland, but it takes time and effort on everyone's part. The path toward healing takes time and work, and we're committed to it.
Ted Wheeler is mayor of Portland.
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