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Local educators weigh in on impact of Juneteenth events

2 months 3 weeks 6 days ago Saturday, June 19 2021 Jun 19, 2021 June 19, 2021 9:45 PM June 19, 2021 in News - Local

In a caravan-style parade through city streets, the community rallied together to honor the historical black district of Edinburg. 

One of their stops - Melissa Dotson Betts Elementary.

"She was the first African American teacher not only within the Edinburg CISD, but in the Valley." Betts Elementary Principal Ernestina Cano said.

For Loretha Laws, telling her family and friends about the impact black people are making on the community is important, but even more so on Juneteenth.

"Personally, for me, it means that we continue to acknowledge our past.” Laws, a teacher with the Edinburg school district and a member of the Juneteenth Committee said. “Even though slavery was abolished, we still have to focus on the struggle. It's a continuous struggle and if we stay educated, we can help make it better."  

On Thursday, President Biden declared Juneteenth a national holiday. This is the first national holiday since former President Reagan made Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday in 1983.

"This one is actually recognizing an older event in American civil rights history which is the formal end of slavery,” UTRGV history professor George T. Diaz said. “When the union army finally got to Texas in June of 1865, several weeks after the emancipation proclamation, it was a tremendous event because it freed the last slaves that were held in bondage in the United States."

The emancipation proclamation became a reality for everyone in the United States When the union army arrived in Texas to free the remaining slaves, Diaz said. 

Now that Juneteenth is a national holiday, Laws hopes it will help people remember the history of black people - and the struggles still present more than 150 years later. 

"What I'm hoping is people will take this knowledge that they're gaining and then speak up if they see an injustice and help," Laws said.

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