DC Emancipation Day Statement

April 16, 2024
Other Publication

The promise of economic freedom held by the emancipation of enslaved people in the District in 1862 has been slow to arrive and hard to come by for too many Black Washingtonians. While we celebrate Emancipation Day on April 16, we must also honor the struggle for true equity that continues to this day.

Black women have historically been charged with some of the most important work in our culture–caring for and educating our children–but rarely compensated fairly for it. The District of Columbia has made significant strides toward correcting this historic injustice in recent years by implementing the Pay Equity Fund. Before the Pay Equity Fund, early educators were paid significantly less than their peers teaching in DC Public Schools. So far the Pay Equity Fund has provided meaningful compensation increases and health insurance to early educators. The Pay Equity Fund has been life-changing for early educators. They’ve used the pay increases for down payments on their first homes, buy their first cars, and pay down debt, as well as simply being able to afford food, utilities, and the day-to-day costs of raising their own children. So when Mayor Bowser’s FY25 budget proposed the complete elimination of the Pay Equity Fund, educators and parents rose up to fight back. 

Hundreds of early educators, child care program directors, and the parents whose children they educate–who think of educators as their co-parents and depend on them daily–have protested this egregious budget cut. Eliminating the Pay Equity Fund would return the District to an attitude of economic exploitation that emancipation sought to end. Yes, we commemorate the end of slavery in the District as the beginning of the righting of a shameful, inhumane, societal wrong. But we will continue to fight for emancipation from economic, educational, and other social injustices and inequities until all of us are truly free. 

Educators and parents have testified before the DC Council, made their voices heard in rallies to save child care, and shared their individual and collective stories in the media. With the support and solidarity of Under 3 DC, the early education community will not rest until the District fully restores the Pay Equity Fund in the budget as a necessary step on the path to true economic emancipation.