Today, Queens Defenders celebrates and reflects on Juneteenth: one hundred and fifty-five years since all people who were enslaved in our country finally learned of their freedom.

While we celebrate, we must also acknowledge that this day comes at a moment of reckoning, as our nation confronts the reality and history of systemic racism. As public defenders, we know this truth all too well. For hundreds of years, this distress has been an undercurrent in a country that has not addressed the enduring impact of slavery, racism against Black people, and the brutalities and inequities that have plagued Indigenous people of color in a culture of white supremacy. We remain committed to rejecting racism in all its forms.

Our actions must be rooted in reflection. To make this a priority, Queens Defenders is offering all employees a fully paid day off to recognize the significance of Juneteenth. We will take this time to consider how we can use our platform to further the fight for justice.

The brutal killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks have ignited a movement in our city and country. There have been a number of wins in New York, including the NYPD’s ban of chokeholds, and an increase in police transparency with the repeal of 50-A and new rules requiring prompt release of body-cam footage. These are initial steps to a long journey of reform. Let us not lose the momentum of this movement and what we’ve fought so hard for.

As an organization, Queens Defenders recognizes that as long as injustices exist, there is always room for growth. Our staff will engage in a series of workshops on implicit bias, microaggressions in the workplace, and a variety of topics addressing the effects of race, class, and privilege in our office and the justice system.