Mayor Jim Dunleavy’s Comments at Teaneck’s 2nd Annual Juneteenth Flag Raising

Good afternoon and welcome to Teaneck’s 2nd Annual Juneteenth Flag Raising. Please note that the flag will also hang above the stairs of the municipal building as well.

We meet this year on Juneteenth to remember, to celebrate, but also to be reminded that there is much more work to do in America to heal wounds and to show as a nation we truly “walk the talk” when it comes to race relations. So today we remember those in the past who suffered and died at the hands of slave owners as well as those who  suffered since then at the hands of intolerant people. We also celebrate the meaning of Juneteenth. It is the date that all slaves were told that they were free. As I have learned the star on the Juneteenth flag is for Texas as that is where the last of the slaves were told that they were free, 2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. 

Unfortunately, though, the Emancipation Proclamation and the subsequent Juneteenth announcement in Texas did not extinguish the racist hate in the hearts of some people. We have had recently terrible examples of that fact, with needless gun violence and death in the name of white extremism against communities of color. We are hearing now about the true, frightening facts of the January 6th insurrection against the American Capital in the name of white supremacy and how much worse it could have been. We are currently seeing men, women, and children, needlessly killed because of intolerance for those who do not look, act, love or worship in a way that conforms to their racist way of thinking. I say to myself everyday….”but for the grace of God go Teaneck.” We must stay vigilant in these extremist times so if you see something….say something.

We must as a nation show that these racist, biased, and dangerous viewpoints must be met with honest voices of truth and that we must hold accountable those who are the caretakers of the rule of law to ensure our laws are applied justly and with equity. 

Here in Teaneck, we have important symbols of how our township views the world. Today’s silent walk to the historic burial grounds this morning, the raising of the Juneteenth Flag here and over the steps of the municipal building along with the Black Lives Matter Mural, all show the support the entire Teaneck Community has for our Black neighbors. It also shows our values to surrounding towns, counties, states, and even our nation that a diverse community can come together to support each other’s right for freedom, prosperity, and equity. Teaneck understands the history and the pain that prejudice brings. However, we see in this the opportunity to be a place that can teach others the right path to a better understanding of each other and in the end hopefully a country that values equally every citizen, regardless of their race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, gender or sexual identity. We are all Americans who have the common desire of a better life for ourselves and our children.

So today we should all be proud of our township and the contribution our Black neighbors bring to the vibrant mosaic of our town. By raising the flag, having the silent walk, and having a permanent mural, we are expressing our belief in, and support for, our Black neighbors. I dare say you would be hard pressed to find a town that has done all these things at one time. 

          I also see Juneteenth as a starting point from which our youth can dialogue, be educated, and understand how our past serves as reminders of why we need to reject hate in all its forms. It also serves as a reminder for thoughtful introspection by older generations that they too need to “walk the talk” and not accept what they might have been taught when young and thus become true role models for our youth. 

Juneteenth also serves as a reminder that as a nation we still struggle with achieving the goal of full acceptance, inclusion and equity for all and we must do more both within ourselves and externally to erase prejudice wherever it is. 

I want to end today with a quote from Nelson Mandela….who said:

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”— Nelson Mandela

We need to put these words of Nelson Mandela into practice every day.

So, I thank you all for coming here this afternoon and participating as our township remembers and celebrates Juneteenth.

Thank you and Happy Juneteenth!

Dr. James Dunleavy, Mayor



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