Celebrating Juneteenth

On June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas, the last group of enslaved people in the U.S. learned they were free two years after the Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery was issued. 

Today, Juneteenth marks this historic moment of celebration and deliverance. But 155 years later, here in 2020, there is still much work to be done for freedom.

In the face of police brutality and racism that we challenge today, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy stands with the Black community and its allies across the country in the movement to make change.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy has chosen to close its offices to observe Juneteenth as a small but important step toward racial reconciliation for our country. We observe this day to show support for our Black neighbors, colleagues and clients who deserve to be treated equally as human beings.

We celebrate Independence Day as a nation even though enslaved people were deliberately excluded from the ideals of freedom laid out in the Declaration of Independence.

We celebrate Juneteenth and imagine what our country could be if we prioritized racial justice and equity to build a truly inclusive democracy that realizes the ideals our country was founded upon.

Today also encourages dialogue around the deferred dream of freedom that has always existed for Black people in the United States. Though these people finally learned that slavery had ended 155 years ago, they were not truly free then, and neither are Black Americans today.

At Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, we fight for equal justice under the law every day for our clients, a majority of whom are people of color disproportionately impacted by poverty. Racial justice and equity are core to our work.

Black people were not included when the phrase “justice for all” was originally coined, yet equal justice for all is impossible to realize without eradicating the systemic racism that pervades our society.

We recognize the critical role our organization plays in building a more just community. Doing so requires taking a hard look at our practices and making sure that everything we do lives up to our standard of justice—one that truly ensures equity and opportunity for all.

Happy Juneteenth from Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy.

“[Recognizing Juneteenth] was an important, positive statement that is part of a larger demonstration of our agency to work toward racial reconciliation.”

Executive Director Kenneth Schorr in the Charlotte Observer: Amid anti-racism protests, Charlotte businesses make Juneteenth a paid holiday

Celebrate Juneteenth with us:

Educate yourself: Spend the day reading about Juneteenth’s history, including how black families felt after being emancipated. Watch the documentary 13th on Netflix, or engage with other movies, shows, books and podcasts about systemic racism.

Participate in online Juneteenth events: Tune in to the virtual Juneteenth music festival or online gala, the following contains information on local events  

Reflect: While slavery ended in 1865, systemic racism continues to this day. Use June 19 as a day to reflect on critical issues that perpetuate discrimination against black people in America and throughout the world.

Place a sign in your front yard: Raise awareness and show your support for Juneteenth by decorating a sign for your front yard or door. This is a great way to help educate younger kids in your neighborhood who may not know about the holiday.

Celebrate with a barbecue: Gather your friends and family together (safely) to celebrate freedom.

Keep the spirit of this special day alive by continuing to fight for justice for ALL!

Black Lives Matter.

George Floyd, 59. Breonna Taylor, 26. Ahmaud Arbery, 25. Eric Garner, 43. Eric Reason, 38. Atatiana Jefferson, 28. Antwon Rose II, 17. Botham Jean, 26. Sandra Bland, 28. Philando Castile, 32. Jordan Davis, 17. Trayvon Martin, 17. Tamir Rice, 12. Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 7. Emmett Till, 14. Addie Collins, 14. Denise McNair, 11. Carole Robertson, 14. Cynthia Wesley, 14. 

. . .  

Today, we lift up the names of African Americans whose lives were cut short by systemic racism and police brutality in our society, but the list does not end here.  

We mourn with the family and loved ones of these individuals and countless others who have been lost.  

Say their names.  

We applaud protesters in Charlotte and across the country who are braving a pandemic and taking to the streets to call for real and lasting change so that our national principle of “life, liberty and justice for all” rings true for all people in the United States—not just Americans of a certain skin tone. 

These murders are tragically nothing new or shocking for our neighbors, clients, colleagues and friends. Both despair and anger have festered for generations as Black people have endured intentional, targeted violence and subjugation without recourse, all while persistently fighting for their right to be valued as equal human beings.  

Now that a spotlight burns on their plight for all to see, we as Americans can no longer turn a blind eye, and the events of the past two weeks should not be a surprise given how we got here. 

The society we know today has been shaped by generations of policies that have deliberately perpetuated the notion that some lives are more valuable than others.  

We’ve seen countless instances where white people have used our white supremacist societal norms to their advantage and abused our police system to further intimidate and terrorize Black people. 

The most recent example happened in New York City’s Central Park last week, when a white woman called the police claiming she was being threatened by a Black bird watcher after he asked her to follow the park’s regulations and put her dog on a leash. This story echoes the calculated actions and tactics used to justify the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955. 

These same protections are not afforded to Black people as demonstrated when Atatiana Jefferson’s family turned to police for a wellness check on their loved one. Instead, she was murdered.  

To be clear: Black lives matter.  

Our nation was built by the hands of enslaved and exploited people, and that legacy lives on today. The wealth and power our country enjoys comes at the expense of deliberate exclusion, imprisonment, and marginalization of Black people and other people of color.  

This system enables the murders of these innocent individuals to take place. And it also actively promotes vast disparities in income, health, housing and employment that cut people of color off from socioeconomic opportunity. 

As our country burns, we must recognize that we started the fire. 

Dismantling our racist system starts with condemning police brutality head on while speaking truth to power. It is our communal responsibility to hold our public authorities accountable to ensure this need is met. We need to seek to understand and embrace the differences that enrich our community rather than use them as a means to divide.  

At Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, we believe that ALL people should have access to legal assistance and resources that ensure stability and promote opportunity. We fight for equal justice under the law every day. Racial justice and equity are inherent to this work. 

Black people were not contemplated when the phrase “justice for all” was originally coined. Equal justice for all is impossible to realize without eradicating the systemic racism that pervades our society. 

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy condemns the police brutality we have witnessed. We stand with those exercising their right to protest in efforts to enact significant change.  

We are doing a lot of introspection. We are listening. We are trying to recognize our individual blind spots to our own ignorance. We are trying to understand, and we will continue to work toward our mission of pursuing justice, every day, with all we have. 

All of us have a role to play in building a more just community.

Will you answer the call?