‘We don’t simply cease at Juneteenth’: Civil rights chief, lawmakers name for extra motion on social justice reform

(Capital star file)

For Lorraine Jones, the first national celebration of June 10th as a federal holiday last week was a triumph in history. But now the civil rights activist says she wants state lawmakers in Harrisburg to put that triumph into practice.

“IIt is more important now than ever that we focus on protecting the most vulnerable. After June 10th and other historic moments, it is time for our country to face our ugly past, be held accountable and correct the wrong, ”said Jones, president of the NAACP state college, the capital star . “Discrimination affects generations and requires immediate attention. We have to try to heal. Supporting and passing anti-racism and anti-discrimination laws is a great place to start. ”

The bills that are now being presented to the General Assembly aim to achieve this. But whether they will eventually find their way to Governor Tom Wolf’s desk is a completely different question. On your part, Jones supports the call for new laws.

Juneteenth is known as the day every slave in the United States was officially free on June 19, 1865. Two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, the slaves in Galveston, Texas were finally released.

In the State House, minority leader Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, is sponsorship legislation that would combat the criminalization of black hairstyles and protect the expression and culture of the black community. She introduced what is known as the CROWN Act in April. The acronym stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair”.

Efforts began in California in 2019 and would prohibit discrimination based on a person’s hairstyle associated with their race. In legislation, the term “breed” includes hair structure and protective styles such as braids, bantu knots, twists, locks and extensions.

“I acknowledge that people are conscientious about this matter and that we are able to help by ensuring that people are not discriminated against for this reason and that, if they are, filing a lawsuit in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania McClinton told the Capital star.

The bill, now before the Government Committee of the House of Representatives, has not yet been heard or voted in committee. Panel chairman, State Representative Seth Grove, R-York, told the Capital star he was unaware of the legislation and did not expect a vote in committee on it.

From June, eight states have passed similar laws including New York, Washington, Colorado, Virginia, California, Maryland, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

McClinton isn’t the only one whose bill hasn’t been brought up and is stuck on committee.

Still awaiting a bill in the state Senate, sponsored by Senator Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, would be to ban police strangleholdings, create a “use of force” policy, and require all Pennsylvania law enforcement agencies to provide training on the policy they have created.

“It creates a certain consistency in the way we set standards for the use of force. It sends a strong message that strangleholds are unacceptable and that there must be an account of the type of armed forces officers use, ”Street told the Capital star.

This law was created after a police officer murdered George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn. His death, captured on video, sparked another wave of protests against Black Lives Matter across the country.

These protests included a 45-minute takeover of parliament at Pennsylvania House by black lawmakers calling for the General Assembly to take action against its bills to combat racism and police violence that had been sunk on the committee.

This protest bore fruit, and the Republican-controlled legislature bore fruit two police reform laws passed. The first creates a database of police personnel files. The other prescribes the mental health assessment of civil servants.

But Street’s stranglehold bill, despite pass the Senate unanimously failed to make it to Governor Tom Wolf’s desk in June 2020. Instead, the Chairman of the House Justice Committee, Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin, never called it to a vote.

A second iteration sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The chair of the committee, Senator Lisa Baker, R-Alfalfa, said “tThere is still a long way to go in the two-year legislature and this is one of many proposals that the committee is considering. ”

Rep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia, has tabled a resolution that makes discrimination against marginalized groups a public health issue and threatens the safety of Pennsylvanians by affecting their physical and mental health.

Some examples of situations classified as harmful discrimination are: lack of access to educational and financial resources, exposure to environmental hazards, discrimination in the workplace and traumatic personal experiences.

“It’s important that we don’t just stop at Juneteenth. It is important that we look at all of the systemic issues and racism in legislation and politics and how this has affected our community, “said Representative Donna Bullock, D-Philadelphia, chairwoman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.

“Yes, we celebrate this freedom, these achievements, black culture, black excellence and all these things; But we continue to work on legislation and policies that can significantly change the lives of black and brown Pennsylvanians, ”said Bullock.

Shaniece Holmes-Brown is a summer intern with the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents Association.

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