Recognizing Juneteenth

Recognizing Juneteenth

Dr. Charles Montorio-Archer, President and CEO

 

As Juneteenth (June 19th) arrives tomorrow, it’s important that we remember what happened on this date in 1865.

Two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to issue the following proclamation: “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

Juneteenth has become a day of celebration- Freedom Day, or Emancipation Day- as some call it. And while 47 states, and Washington D.C. recognize it as either a state or ceremonial holiday, the federal government has yet to make June 19th an official holiday. This must change. The federal government needs to recognize the importance of this event in United States history. By declaring Juneteenth as a federal holiday, the government will bring awareness to the history, and the contributions of African Americans in our country.

Some businesses have recently made Juneteenth a company-wide holiday. It is vital that organizations look internally at what they could and should be doing to address systemic racism and bias in their own companies- and also, how they can be investing in the communities in which they operate.

When I began leading One Hope United over a year ago, it was an important initiative of mine to make diversity, equity, and inclusion top priorities- not just because of the diversity of our staff, or of the clients we serve, but because it is the right thing to do. It was also the right action to take when we formed the internal Taskforce on Equity in Human Services. As Black Lives Matter protests sweep the nation, we at One Hope United understand that we have a unique intersection with human services and justice systems where we can advocate for necessary changes.

I’m proud of the fact, that within one week of announcing the taskforce, I hosted an open forum with OHU employees, to discuss the taskforce, its mission, and to hear their perspective on the inequities in the systems in which we engage. I look forward to continuing the conversation and leading the organization to turn our hope it into action. It is because of the diversity of who we are, we need to be deliberate about our evaluation of what we do- which is why we are not announcing Juneteenth as a One Hope United holiday this year. Our taskforce will have a rich dialog about how we observe Juneteenth organizationally.

Recognizing this event’s place in history is important and it’s inherent in the work we do that we have the ability to make our society a more equitable place. Addressing systemic racism doesn’t start with a federal holiday, it is necessary to commit to the work of being anti-racist and being pro-equity. Let’s move forward united in the hope of a brighter, and better tomorrow for all.