On June 19, 1865, Union Soldiers alerted enslaved Black Americans that the Civil War was over and that they can now be free. 156 years later and there are still two states in the United States that don’t recognize June 19 as an official state holiday.
The complicated history Hawaii has with its Black locals may prove to be why the island nation is still considering the Juneteenth legislation. Black people only make up 3.6% of the island’s population of over 1 million residents. In 1852, the kingdom of Hawaii signed their Constitution that outlawed slavery on the island.
Although, this is a major historical event that showcases progress towards racial equity, Black people still feel like outsiders on the island.
Texas became the first state to recognize the Juneteenth holiday in 1980. South Dakota is the only state that hasn’t considered the legislation change yet and Hawaii is certainly moving towards a future that will acknowledge the end of slavery in the month of June.
Dr. Akeimi Glenn is a Black expat on Oahu and has experienced the small but mighty force of the Black population that inhabits the most populated island. She explains how racism still exists in Hawaii, although it has been previously seen and debunked as a paradisaical escape from the prejudiced history of the United States.
Glenn founded the Popolo Project, a nonprofit based around building visibility for Black people in Hawaii. Through her community engagements, she can get a sense of how the culture is shifting and how it can be propelled forward.
Juneteenth has become a popular annual acknowledgment within recent years because of the countless acts of police brutality that has left the United States even more divided. The murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have marked a pivotal moment in history where unlawful police officers are finally being charged for their misconduct. There will most likely be a push for Juneteenth to be recognized countrywide when Hawaii passes their bill entirely and the lasting pressure will be on South Dakota.