Marks the day on June 19, 1865, when enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, learned about their freedom, more than two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

New Jersey is celebrating Juneteenth as a state holiday this year for the second time. It’s an important gesture, and the celebrations are inspiring. Symbolism matters.

In order to make the promise of freedom full and real, meaningful investment and policy must accompany our proclamations. That is as true today as it was a century and a half ago.

Sadly, even two years after our streets were bursting with cries for racial justice, New Jersey has not stepped up to the plate.

Despite being a northern state known for its progressivism, the Garden State suffers from extraordinary racial disparities. 

Our racial wealth gap is one of the worst in America, as are our racial disparities relating to incarceration, infant mortality, and education.

Investments that say we truly believe in freedom realized, not just proclaimed. Yet there are several bills pending in our state legislature lacking legislators’ political will and courage for passage

When it comes to policing, the legislature can pass legislation (S265/A2431) to completely ban chokeholds like the one that killed George Floyd, and to establish civilian review boards (A1515).

To repair the harm from New Jersey’s deep roots in slavery and its lingering aftermath, we can pass pending legislation to create a Reparations Task Force (A938/S386) to study our state’s unique equities.

Most importantly, they will bring us further along on our ongoing journey toward fulfilling the freedom promised but not completed on that day in 1865.