Dear fellow state employee,
Today is Juneteenth, the day we commemorate and recognize as Freedom Day for slaves in Galveston, Texas who were told they were free by Union soldiers on June 19, 1865, two and a half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that became effective in January 1863. This is a day of reflection, acknowledgement, celebration and action.
Recent events have caused me to examine how persistent racism continues to impact Black lives across our state, nation and world. I want to be clear to every state employee that Black Lives Matter and that this is a value of the State of Washington as an employer.
I am making a commitment to all employees that our workplace will be a more inclusive environment where every employee is encouraged to bring their true and authentic selves to work. I will be working with the business resource groups over the next several months to develop proposals and recommendations on how we can make the workplace more welcoming and ensure that agency leadership (including my office) mirrors the diversity of the state.
Next year, I will support legislation making Juneteenth a legal holiday. In this Juneteenth video, I also shared a broader message with all Washingtonians on the significance of Juneteenth and additional steps I am taking to address police accountability.
As we begin this work, I recognize that it is a difficult moment to be in state government. COVID-19 has increased our workload as well as how we deliver on our mission to the people of the state, complicated our work environment and created a significant budget deficit that impacts all of us. You have all demonstrated how we can collectively work together to combat COVID-19. I expect that you will similarly support this cause with just as much, if not more, effort to address the racism, inequities and disparities that exist within our systems.
I want to thank BUILD, Blacks United in Leadership and Diversity, one of the state business resource groups, for their leadership in developing this year’s Juneteenth proclamation and for organizing yesterday’s Juneteenth celebration.
Please know that I see you, I hear you, I respect you and I value you.
Very truly yours,
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