This past weekend we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln on Sept. 22, 1862, which took effect the following Jan. 1, known to millions as the day that freed the slaves of the South.
But as we commemorate that mark in history, many African American leaders in Queens want people to know that the fight for equality between white and black is far from over. While there is much to celebrate, there remains much to still hope for.
One is City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton), who will be the next state senator representing the Jamaica area and the eastern Rockaways.
“The situation of race in America has always been troublesome,” Sanders said. “We in government need to be aware not only of the history but the legacy that we need to finish the battle. We need to honor Lincoln.”
Some issues that are still facing the African American community, according to its leaders, are financial crises, the lack of support for education and need for more resources to improve the mental and physical health of many.
“Barack Obama broke barriers,” said Kanjela Moore, chairwoman of Community Board 13’s Youth and Education Committee. “[Yet] there is progress to be made.”
Moore said one concern is how the media perceive the black community, mainly in a negative light. There is a need to show the good being done by many African Americans that is not publically showcased, she said.
Leroy Gadsden, president of the NAACP’s Jamaica branch, said members of the African-American community also need to educate each other more about our history so that we can move forward.
“We have been America’s most loyal citizens,” Gadsden said, noting that 150 years is not that long a time and that hatred still exists. “They need to include us in all [aspects of] citizenship.”
Omar Cintron, 23, a Bronx resident and York College student, agreed. “Ever since we have elected a black president I think we have come through a lot, even though there is racism still going on,” Cintron said.
And he noted that the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free the slaves in all the states. According to sources like history.com, it released 3.1 million of the nation’s four million slaves.
A copy of the proclamation signed by Lincoln, was kept above a picture of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the Oval Office of the White House for about six months in 2010 so visitors could see it. Whether that office will continue to be occupied by its first African-American resident, President Obama, will be decided by the people in November.