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June 19 marks Juneteenth (also known as Freedom Day), a holiday commemorating the abolishment of slavery in 1865 in Texas and the Confederate South, two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.
These events eventually resulted in the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which states:
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
What followed Emancipation was the disproportionate impact of mass incarceration, discriminatory housing policies and a lack of economic investment in Black communities. Although Juneteenth is a day to celebrate freedom and equality, African Americans have experienced hundreds of years of racial discrimination and injustices, and have yet to enjoy full freedom from slavery.
The events of the past several weeks have only amplified these disparities. The murder of George Floyd is another example of racist violence stemming from the roots of our country. This violence takes its form not only in the killing of Black lives and other people of color by police, but in the deep injustices we see across our systems of criminal justice, public safety, housing, education, health care and our public health systems. The protests taking place across the nation and globally, often with violent response by police, are an expression of centuries of that injustice.
Central City Concern (CCC) is dedicated to serving single adults and families in the Portland metro area who are impacted by homelessness, poverty and addictions; and to support them in achieving their dreams of stable housing, health and economic opportunities. We cannot achieve our mission under systems that perpetuate racialized violence and systematic oppression.
CCC offers the following culturally specific services and programs to the African American community:
- Imani Center—Provides comprehensive approaches to mental health and addictions treatment for and by African Americans. The Center’s services
empower clients to build community with other African Americans working toward recovery, with the support of staff members who have lived knowledge
of Black culture and the African American experience.
- Flip the Script (FTS)—CCC’s reentry program links individuals exiting incarceration to housing, employment services, peer connections and advocacy
From a public policy framework, CCC works to center the voices of our Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) clients and those who have experience with the criminal justice system. Additionally, CCC proactively works on issues related to housing, integrated health care and social and economic opportunity.
From higher rates of poverty and food insecurity to unemployment and mass incarceration, recent events have highlighted deeply rooted issues in America: the continued existence of two histories, black and white, separate and unequal, and the stark, persisting impacts of discrimination.
Juneteenth is a holiday that should be recognized and honored by all in the United States. In our work of providing comprehensive solutions to ending homelessness, we are raising awareness and working towards uprooting policies, practices and behaviors that uphold systemic injustices and perpetuate conditions of poverty. We aim to build a society where everyone can thrive.