Juneteenth is a Holiday About What We Didn’t Know


Did you know that Governor Douglas signed a Proclamation in in 2008, announcing Juneteenth as an official holiday in Vermont (third Saturday of June). Most people don’t. Ironically (you’ll understand soon) the message never made it to us this year.

Juneteenth is one of the oldest African American holidays and commemorates the celebration that happened the day that the slaves of Texas were notified of their freedom. This announcement came about two and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation took effect. There are numerous theories and stories as to why it would have taken so long for for the word of freedom to be delivered to the slaves of Texas.  They range from the murder of a messenger to the nefarious intents of the slave owners. Whatever the reason, it is clear that some benefitted while others suffered because incredibly critical information never made it to those who needed and it most.  Vermont Juneteenth Day came and went on June 16th, with no governmental acknowledgement. No message, no press release, no blog. Nothing.  Do you see the irony yet?

Did you know that Vermont was actually NOT the first state to abolish slavery and the language permitting slavery still exists in the first Article of the Vermont Constitution? Did you know that the Senate refused to consider a resolution, urging the 2019 Senate to initiate an amendment to remove slavery from the Constitution? The Senate did however take up a similar resolution, urging the 2019 Senate to take up an ERA Constitutional Amendment.  Did you know that this past session, for the first time in history the Vermont House of Representatives introduced a resolution urging the 2019 Senate to remove all language authorizing slavery or indentured servitude from the Vermont Constitution? The House Government Operations Committee never took it up.  Constitutionalized slavery undergirds the exploitation of inmates for the purposes of political or economic gain.  Did you know that Vermont is currently exploiting inmates through the use of a program called Vermont Correctional Industries?

Did you know that the Governor vetoed the Systemic Racism Mitigation Bill (S.281) because of his concerns that he would not be able to unilaterally dismiss the Director?  Did you know that the attorneys in our nonpartisan Legislative Council produced a decision that S.281 was indeed constitutional? Did you know that the Executive Order (18-04) that the Governor released in lieu of the bill actually undermines any ability to address systemic racism? Did you know that S.5, a second version on the Systemic Racism Mitigation bill (omitting termination language) passed both chambers of the legislature and it is headed to the Governor? Systemic racism creates racial disparities in the criminal justice system, education, housing, employment, health services and economic development. In fact systemic racism is at the root of the immigration policy that is separating children from their parents at the borders of this nation today!

Just as the message failed to make it to Texas, so too is the message failing to make it to us, here is Vermont. The same truth exists today that for whatever the reason, it is clear that some benefit while others sufferer because incredibly critical information is not making it to those who need it most.


Mark Hughes
Ed, Justice For All

Systemic Racism Mitigation Bill (S.5) Headed Back to the Governor


The Governor vetoed S.281, a Systemic Racism Mitigation bill at the end of the General Session this year.  He stated that the reason that he vetoed the bill was that the “exercise of executive authority by an inter-branch entity over a Governor violates the separation of powers dictated by the Constitution.” S.281l required the Governor to gain a majority approval from the Panel to terminate the Director.

Instead, the Governor issued Executive Order 18-04 (which falls woefully short of fulfilling the original intent of addressing systemic racism in Vermont Government).  The Governor stated that Executive Order “goes even further in our effort to ensure racial, ethnic and cultural diversity, equity and equality.” This statement alone is evidence that he misses the point of the need to address systemic racism entirely.  The executive order is riddled with flaws that cause it to be nothing more than whitewash and offers us more more of the same.  Here are some of the many ways that Executive falls short of addressing systemic racism.

  • The name of the function has been changed.
  • The Executive Order does not fund the position but requests the Secretary of Administration to review the vacancy pool to find a position.
  • There is no time line for implementation.
  • Executive Applies only to identifying and working to eradicate systemic racism in the Executive Branch.
  • The Executive Order enables the Governor to appoint all 5 members to the Panel
  • The Executive Order calls for a sole report to the Governor alone (legislative reporting is upon request and will calls only for information on the process for developing a comprehensive organizational review.
  • The Executive Order gives no oversight authority to the panel but defines its duties only as 1) help develop the job description, 2) nominate candidates, 3) meet with the Governor.
  • The Executive Order requires ONLY governor appointees to attend training on racial equity and diversity.

It is our hope that the Governor will rescind Executive Order 18-04 in that it was never designed to truly address systemic racism in Vermont.  In spite of the legislative Council taking exception to the unconstitutionality of the termination clause in S.281, the legislature just passed S.5, an identical bill (absent the language that he was opposed to).  We implore the Governor to sign S.5, a bill to address systemic racism in Vermont.  This is the second bipartisan attempt of this legislature to place this incredibly important, unprecedented bill before him.

Join us as we call on the the Governor to rescind Executive Order 18-04 and sign the Systemic Racism Mitigation bill, S.5.  It is important that we act now on this in that the duration of the special session is uncertain.
  1. Please pass this to your network and ask them to take action
  2. Call the Governor’s office and express your support for S.5 (802.828.3333)
  3. Write the Governor’s office and ask him to rescind Executive Order 18-04 and sign S.5 
  4. Write an Op Ed or Opinion piece for your local papers (nobody is covering it)
  5. Post this and updates on social media

Donate to Justice For All here.

Justice For All pursues racial justice within Vermont’s criminal justice system through advocacy, education, and relationship-building.

Here are options to become a member, provide organizational support or simply provide a contribution.

Thank you for your support!

Mark Hughes
Justice For All
Racial Justice Reform Coalition

S.281, Systemic Racism Mitigation Bill Veto Outrage

We are Outraged at the Governor’s Veto of S.281, the Systemic Racism Mitigation Bill!


We are outraged at the Governor’s Veto of S.281, Racism the Systemic racism Mitigation bill.  The fact that he would replace the bill with an executive order speaks of his unwillingness to truly seek to address mitigating systemic racism in Vermont in any real and sustainable manner.  Of all concerns, the Governor vetoed this bill because he would not have the ability to terminate this person unilaterally, without the majority vote of an associated panel.  Legislative Council has stated that his claims that a termination process requiring a majority panel vote are simply wrong.

Addressing systemic racism by executive order leaves the fate of the entire systemic racism mitigation apparatus in the hands of the Governor who has been (with one exception) an affluent white man throughout all Vermont history.   Further, the Governor has no authority to appropriate funds for the creation of a position or the funding of panel.

We demand that the legislature immediately take action on this very important issue and immediately override this incredulous overreach of Executive power.  We cannot allow this Governor to derail the hard fought efforts placed into addressing systemic racism in Vermont.  His plan is clearly intended to wield and protect his political power, not implement a sustainable approach to mitigating systemic racism.  Please help us move a swift and decisive veto override.  Here is how you can help:

  1. Send this message to all of you friends ASAP
  2. Call you legislators, the Senate Pro Tempore and the Speaker of the House and tell them to override the veto 802.828.2228
  3. Send a note to your legislators, the Senate Pro Tempore and the Speaker of the House and ask them to override the veto
  4. Share this on your social media

Justice For All pursues racial justice within Vermont’s criminal justice system through advocacy, education, and relationship-building.
As you consider where you are investing in social justice issues, remember the racial referendum that we just experienced in our national election. Consider donating to Justice For All, an organically grown, Vermont-based racial justice organization that has been here doing the work over the past couple of years  Please help us with your membership, provide organizational support or simply provide a contribution. Help us continue this work in Vermont.

Over the past number of years we have worked to successfully deliver the Vermont Fair and Impartial Policing Policy for all law enforcement agencies in the state. We are the founding organization of the Racial Justice reform Coalition, which put forward what became Act 54, the Racial Disparities in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice System Advisory Panel.  Our latest legislative win is S.281, the Systemic Racism Mitigation legislation is headed to the Governor’s desk at the time of this update.  Our work continues with numerous community outreach activities, Vermont Justice Coalition, Coalition on Racial Justice Reform, the Law Enforcement Professional Regulation Committee and much more but we need your help to continue.Respectfully,Mark A. Hughes, ED, Justice For All

Racial Justice Reform Coalition