LETTER: Making Juneteenth a federal holiday was long overdue, WNY resident says

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In a letter to the editor, West New York resident Patrick Cullen explains why he feels making Juneteenth a federal holiday was long overdue.

West New York Town Historian Patrick Cullen. Facebook photo.

Dear Editor,

On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger informed Texas enslaved individuals that they were free.

This was due to General Order 3, as well as the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln years earlier. Several days ago, Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts introduced a bill to make June 19th a federal holiday.

On the evening of June 15, 2021, the Senate passed the bill unanimously. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the bill 415-14, all 14 no votes coming from Republicans.

At the bill’s signing, President Biden walked over to 94-year-old Opal Lee, a longtime proponent of this legislation, and celebrated this historic moment with her.

It was very fitting that the former Vice President of the first Black President was now signing this long overdue holiday as the first Black (and female) Vice President took part in this seminal moment.

A 5,000 year old Vedic Indian text, a 2,500 year old Confucius quote, and a 2,200 year old Judaism text from the Book of Tobias tells us in so many words not to do unto others as you don’t want done unto you.

About 2,000 years ago Jesus said: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Sadly, those who owned enslaved individuals, including 12 U. S. Presidents (8 of whom owned enslaved individuals while they were Presidents) ignored that wise dictum.

As we reflect on the full measure of the significance of this holiday, may we always be aware of the truly sinful stain of slavery, acknowledge the harm this has done to many generations of fellow human beings, past and present, and resolve to reconcile with one another and ensure slavery in any and every form is eradicated from our world with dispatch.

Patrick Cullen
West New York resident

Editor’s note: Cullen is also the West New York town historian.