Former First Lady Michelle Obama commemorated Juneteenth on Friday with a statement suggesting that those who have protested — in the past and present — have “led us forward.”
“Even though the story has never been tidy, and Black folks have had to march and fight for every inch of our freedom, our story is nonetheless one of progress,” Obama said, referring to her grandfathers, whom she said were the grandchildren of enslaved people.
They grew up in the Jim Crow south and “migrated north in search of a better life,” she continued:
But even then, they were still shut out of jobs and schools and opportunities because of the color of their skin. But they pressed forward with dignity and with purpose, raising good kids, contributing to their communities, and voting in every election. And though they didn’t live to see it themselves, I can see the smiles up on their faces knowing that their great-granddaughters ended up playing ball in the halls of the White House — a magnificent structure built by enslaved Americans.
“All across the country, there are so many more parts to this story – the generations of families whose work and service and protest has led us forward, even if the promise we seek is often delayed,” she continued.
“This Juneteenth, let’s all pledge to keep using our voices — and our votes — to keep that story marching forward for our own children, and theirs,” Obama added:
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) June 19, 2020
Obama’s remark follows weeks of protests, some of which descended into riots — hallmarked by looting, violence, and assault against police officers — in several prominent U.S. cities, including Washington, DC.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) commemorated the day with a call to enact Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s (D-TX) legislation forming a commission to study proposals for issuing reparations.
The commission would “study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, its subsequent de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans” and “make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies.”