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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Celebrating Juneteenth, Honoring Black Lives

King County Metro General Manager, Terry White, and artist/Metro operator Robert L. Horton visit at the BLM Art Event, March 2021. Photo/Joshua Jackson/Metro.

By Terry White, King County Metro General Manager

Today, King County Metro celebrates Juneteenth—the day illegally enslaved Black Americans in Texas learned they were free, two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s executive decree went into effect.

Also fittingly known as Jubilee Day, Juneteenth is a time to celebrate the rights, contributions, and voices of Black people. For some, it is a spiritual day to pay respect to ancestors; to honor not only the survival of subjugated, silenced generations of the past, but the powerful legacies of Black Americans. Juneteenth is about recognition of the Black American experience—as varied, beautiful, and now thriving.

As we commemorate Juneteenth, the nation’s reckoning with racism is at the forefront of our societal conscience. Joyful events can summon interruptions of bittersweet reflection. While alongside uplifting Juneteenth festivities, all Americans must mourn and face the injustices still being waged against Black people.

We at Metro are committed to continuous self-examination as we work to combat systemic racism and oppression in all its forms. We have focused on aligning our values with the service we deliver through guidance from our Equity Cabinet, a group of leaders from diverse communities, who together authored our Mobility Framework. How our values translate into action is reflected in the resources and investments budgeted for community engagement, training, and reshaping our policies and procedures.

• We are reimagining transit security and law enforcement practices, critical for being an anti-racist mobility agency. We are reaching out to members of the community, co-creating with them to envision what a safe and welcoming Metro looks like for people who are Black, Indigenous, of color, or have low or no income.

• We are actively cultivating leadership and resourcing trainings. These include our Leading Forward Together program for managers, and expanding our Equal Employment Opportunity/Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging team.  

• We are uplifting the voices of our talented employees who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color. When asked what “Black Lives Matter” meant to them, they answered with powerful artwork currently displayed on our buses, workplace posters, and with local media outlets. Becoming an anti-racist person, organization, and society is a journey. It requires us to challenge ourselves and question long-held beliefs and behaviors. While this may be uncomfortable, this work is vital. In tribute to Juneteenth—and the inalienable rights still not afforded to Black Americans in the same ways as White Americans—we honor Black lives of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

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