The conclusion of Black History Month on Monday didn’t stop the Justice Department on Friday from holding a tribute to African American achievements. Attorney General Eric Holder said the organizers did such a good job at setting up the tribute that the DOJ decided to “extend the celebration into the first few days of March.”
“Only the Justice Department,” Holder said, drawing laughs from the more than 100 members of the DOJ community gathered in the Great Hall at department headquarters in Washington, D.C. “It’s who we are.”
Holder, the nation’s first black attorney general, then took a serious tone.
With members of the Cardozo High School color guard from D.C. present for the ceremony, the Attorney General assured the students that D.C. authorities have the support of the DOJ as the investigation into the fatal shooting of Cardozo student Lucki Pannell last month continues. Holder said D.C. U.S. Attorney Ron Machen, who attended the Black History celebration, and his staff are working hard on the investigation.
The Attorney General encouraged DOJ employees to use the celebration of Black History Month to reflect on achievements that brought freedom and equality, while considering how far the United States has yet to go.
“Despite recent heartbreak and ongoing threats and despite the persistent problems that we still face and the unprecedented challenges that we still confront – today, I think we have a really important opportunity,” Holder said. “Each year, as we commemorate Black History Month, we are also called to reconnect – and to rededicate ourselves – to the principles at the core of all that we stand for, and all that we fight for, in this Department of Justice.”
Assistant Attorney General Tony West of the Civil Division, who gave the keynote speech at the celebration, said Black History Month is still important because “the work of doing justice is never done.” He said Black History Month is for everyone, not just blacks.
“This month reminds us that the unfinished work of liberty is not past,” West said. “It is here and it is now, and I think this is especially true for those of us who are privileged to work at a place called Justice.”