by Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan
Juneteenth is the newest federal holiday, signed into law by President Biden in 2021. It commemorates June 19th, 1865, the day enslaved people in Texas first learned they were free, more than two and a half years after they were declared free by President Lincoln in his Emancipation Proclamation.
For generations, formerly enslaved people and their descendants have observed Juneteenth. It has grown over the decades, embraced by an increasingly diverse population that realizes its historical importance. But despite Juneteenth’s long overdue acceptance as a federal holiday, the Black population of the United States still suffers intolerable levels of discrimination, de facto segregation, health and wealth disparity, and many other symptoms of systemic racism.
Olympic track and field star Tori Bowie was just 32 years old when she died at home last month. The Orange County, Florida medical examiner reported she was eight months pregnant and in labor when she died, most likely from eclampsia, a complication of pregnancy. Bowie, who was Black, won bronze, silver and gold medals in the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro. The CDC recently marked Black Maternal Health Week in April, noting that Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy complications than white women.
Bowie’s Olympic teammate Tianna Bartoletta wrote after learning of her death, “As of June 2023…3 of the 4 members of Team USA’s 4×100m relay team…who ran the second fastest time in history, and brought home the gold medal…have nearly died or did die in childbirth. We deserve better. #BlackMaternalHealthCrisis.”