Civics

Del. Danielle Walker reflects on Juneteenth as City of Morgantown issues proclamation recognizing day of commemoration

Honoring History and The Walker Family

Del. Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, speaks at the Morgantown City Council meeting Tuesday June 7, after Mayor Jenny Selin read a Juneteenth proclamation.

Del. Danielle Walker reflects on Juneteenth as City of Morgantown issues proclamation recognizing day of commemoration

By Chris Slater

With a note of reflection in her words, Del. Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, took center stage at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Morgantown City Council. Moments earlier, Mayor Jenny Selin read the first-ever Juneteenth Proclamation from the City of Morgantown.

“We say that we stand on the shoulders of giants,” Walker said. “How could we ever know who those giants are if we don't speak about this piece of American history?”

Juneteenth is a federal holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved peoples. Originating in Galveston, Texas, it has been celebrated annually on June 19, 1865, and was recognized as a federal holiday on June 17, 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law.

Juneteenth is the anniversary of the June 19, 1865 announcement by Union Army general Gordon Granger, proclaiming freedom for enslaved people in Texas, which was the last state of the Confederacy where slavery was still in existence.

Morgantown’s proclamation formally recognized the city as commemorating Juneteenth, and Mayor Selin read the proclamation as Del. Walker and Ash Orr, chair of Morgantown’s Human Rights Commission, looked on.

“I urge all to reflect on the ongoing cause of freedom for the Black community — remembering that though General Granger's announcement in 1865 called for absolute equality, that vision was — and remains — far from complete,” Selin said.

Walker said that when we speak about Black history, it is more than simply that.

“This is part of America’s history, and what you are witnessing tonight is Morgantown's history,” Walker said. “I am proud to be a Morgantown resident, but I'm even more proud to represent you in the House of Delegates.”

Walker, who serves District 51 in Monongalia County, said the city’s proclamation was special to her as the only Black female elected official in the West Virginia Legislature.

“I started this journey on one love, and I'm telling you there will be no hate in none of our haulers because this is the freedom and jubilee that we are representing,” Walker said. “And we are celebrating for all.”

Walker spoke of the enslaved men and women, who simply were not told they had been freed for two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

“Those slaves had to wait two more years of giving free labor. Two more years of being shackled and whipped,” Walker said. “Two more years of being taken from their families. Two more years of being three-fifths a person. But today we stand and we sit here all together as one.”

For Walker, June 19 is also a commemoration of a different nature. That day last year, Walker’s son Demetry died from leukemia shortly before his 24th birthday.

“It was a day that my oldest son transitioned, and I feel my Heavenly angel with me right now, as I speak to you as a grieving mother, because that year is coming up,” Walker said.

Walker and others will be hosting a health fair June 18 at Windmill Park in Fairmont, with blood and bone marrow donations being taken.

“We're kicking it off with a brunch about mental health, because I wonder how the last bit of slaves felt mentally knowing that they could have been free, that they weren't free by paper, two years ago,” Walker said. “Being a patriot, being an American, but most of all it's time for us to be human.”

Chris Slater is a journalist living in Morgantown. He was Editor-in-Chief of Concord University’s student newspaper in 2007 despite at one point having a 0.6 GPA.

Del. Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, holds the City of Morgantown proclamation recognizing Juneteenth, at their Tuesday June 7 city council meeting.

Jenny Selin, mayor of Morgantown, reads the city’s Juneteenth proclamation at the Tuesday, June 7 meeting of the Morgantown City Council.

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