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Murray Joins African-American Leaders at Emancipation Celebration

Jun 19 2004

Speaking at Seattle Juneteenth Event, Murray says: "Never Be a Bystander in the Fight for Human Dignity”

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(Seattle, WA)- U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) joined local leaders today to celebrate Juneteenth, a day which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

"Today we are celebrating liberation and the end of slavery," Murray said. "America is a lot closer today to the ideals promised in our Constitution," Murray said. "But our work for social justice, for democracy, and for liberation is not done."

Murray spoke about the importance of continuing to fight for civil rights. In her speech, Murray quoted a scholar about the cause of justice:

"Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander."

"On this Juneteenth celebration, let's resolve to never be a bystander in the fight for human dignity," Murray said. "Let's take the first step forward."

Murray spoke about her own efforts in fighting for civil rights in the U.S. Senate. On June 16, Murray voted to increase federal protections against hate crimes.

"I fight everyday to ensure that all are protected against discrimination and that economic opportunities remain available for everyone," Murray said. "I'm able to be effective in Washington D.C. because there is such a strong coalition for justice here in Washington state."

This year's Juneteenth celebration in Seattle was hosted by the Central Area Motivational Program (CAMP). Founded in 1965, CAMP provides services to low-income families. In her remarks, Murray applauded CAMP's efforts in the fight for human rights.

"CAMP is not just about justice," Murray said. "It's about human dignity--sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry, training people for jobs, and keeping families warm on cold winters nights. Simply put, CAMP reflects the best of our community."

Murray talked about the need for citizens to actively stand up for civil rights.

"We can't wait for someone else to take up the cause of justice. We must get started on our own," Murray said. "CAMP showed us that we should take the first step for justice. And by taking the first step we build a path that others will follow."

Also attending Seattle's Juneteenth celebration was: Mayor Nickels, CAMP's Executive Director Tony Orange, Councilmember Larry Gossett, Attorney General Gregoire and County Executive Ron Sims.

Senator Murray's full remarks as prepared for delivery follow:

Thank you, Mayor Nickels, for that introduction. And thank you all for standing up for so many families who rely on you to be their voice and their champion.

I want to say hello to Tony Orange, Councilmember Larry Gossett, Attorney General Gregoire, and our County Executive Ron Sims. Your work reminds me of something that a scholar once said about the cause of justice:

"Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. And above all thou shalt not be a bystander."

The Central Area Motivation Program has never been a bystander in the fight for justice. In fact, even before the federal government was working on anti-poverty programs, leaders here in our community were on the job, coming up with ideas, and helping our neighbors in need. I think one of CAMP's greatest lessons is that we can't wait for someone else to take up the cause of justice. We must get started on our own. And we see that example in the very year that CAMP was created.

Back in August 1965, the federal government wasn't ready to start paying staff members at CAMP. But the cause of justice could not wait so CAMP hired its first three staff members on credit. CAMP took the first step forward, and then federal funds and other support followed. CAMP showed us that we should take the first step for justice. And by taking the first step we build a path that others will follow.

And CAMP is not just about justice. It's about human dignity sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry, training people for jobs, and keeping families warm on cold winter nights. Simply put, CAMP reflects the best of our community, and I'm proud to join all of you at this Juneteenth celebration.

Today we are celebrating liberation and the end of slavery. We're marking the day when slaves in Texas learned that the Civil War had ended and they were now free. They celebrated on that June day, and today in communities across America we are celebrating as well.

Today we are also marking the rebellion in 1803 in what is now Haiti where slaves brought about their own liberation, and created the first Black Republic in the Western Hemisphere.

There are many things to celebrate today. America is a lot closer today to the ideals promised in our Constitution - That every person deserves equal justice under law, that every person should be treated with dignity, and that every person should have the opportunity to reach their full potential. But our work for social justice, for democracy, and for liberation is not done.

CAMP has been such a strong voice for democracy and human rights in places like Haiti and throughout Africa. When you speak up for justice, for economic opportunity and for democracy, we are listening, and we hear you loud and clear.

In the United States Senate, we are making some progress on the cause of human rights. For example, just last week we expanded protections from hate crimes. Before we acted, federal hate crimes could only be prosecuted if the victim was involved in a federally-protected activity, like voting, protesting, marching, or attending church. But we all know that hate crimes can take place anywhere and at any time, and that's why I worked to expand protections against hate crimes.

I continue to work to provide opportunities and civil right protections in other areas like education, housing, and employment. I fight everyday to ensure that all are protected against discrimination and that economic opportunities remain available for everyone.

When they try to appoint a judge who has a horrible civil rights record, you bet I’m going to oppose that nomination. When they seek to cut programs that help families living in poverty, I will fight them every step of the way.

When they threaten our schools, our hospitals and our job training, I am not a bystander. And one of the reasons I'm able to be effective in Washington, D.C. is because there is such a strong coalition for justice here in Washington state.

So on this Juneteenth celebration, let's resolve to never be a bystander in the fight for human dignity. Let's take the first step forward like those slaves did in Texas and in Haiti. Let's take the first step forward and then we'll get everybody on board moving our country and our world in the right direction. Thank you and God bless you all.