Brandi Howard is SFF’s Chief of Staff.
Juneteenth is a time when I pause to remember the strength, joy, and beauty of my ancestors. My personal and professional commitment to equity is the continuation of the work that my ancestors started in bondage.
Juneteenth is also a time for all Americans to celebrate the resilience of African Americans and the freedom gained as a result of a centuries-long struggle for liberation.
Many Americans believe that our fight for freedom began with the Civil War and ended with the Emancipation Proclamation. However, the 13th amendment, which finally abolished slavery in 1865, was only possible because of the 246-year rebellion of enslaved people on this land.
When slavery ended, we all became a little bit freer. Juneteenth honors the people who have sacrificed in order to dismantle systems that dehumanize and harm all of us. We should all celebrate the moments in our history when we changed course to do and be better. In fact, the President signed a bill creating a national holiday celebrating Juneteenth this week. If we truly believe in an authentic fight for equity and liberation, Juneteenth should hold personal meaning for each of us.
I am a proud member of the team at the San Francisco Foundation, where we are investing in the movements needed to continue our joint liberation. This Juneteenth, we are at an inflection point. As the economy begins to re-open, we must rebuild our communities so that all people in the Bay Area can have a good job, live in a safe home, and exercise their voice for change. Over the past year, we have partnered with community-led organizations, policymakers, peer foundations, and donors, to center the Bay Area’s Black community in the following ways:
- Reimagining Public Safety: We supported a range of organizations who are working at the city and county level to move public sector funds from carceral system to efforts that support community resilience. We and seven other foundations joined the Answer the Uprising Pledge, a call for philanthropy to increase funding and momentum to end police violence.
- Making Changes to our Justice System: We helped support legislation that will dramatically reduce the pernicious fines and fees that annually drain millions of dollars of wealth, particularly from Black and Brown communities.
- Addressing Housing Segregation: As a result of advocacy from a coalition of racial equity-focused housing organizations, Bay Area local governments are taking into account redlining against Black families and other racial segregation across the region when setting targets and geographic distribution for new affordable housing.
- Supporting Black Community Organizing: Through a $1 million grant, we joined with others to launch the California Black Freedom Fund, a $100 million effort that invests in Black power building and organizing in California.
- Investing in Black-Owned Businesses: Together with our donors and the City of San Francisco, we are helping expand a zero-interest loan program to help Black-owned businesses stay afloat as we recover from the pandemic.
Our work will not end here. When future generations pause on Juneteenth to reflect on this moment – 2021 – I hope they will see it as another time when we responded to crisis and pain with hope, power, and determination. A moment when we worked together to build the future that we all deserve.
This Juneteenth, I am reminded that our fight is not just against inequity, racism, and hatred – our fight is for joy, happiness, connection, belonging, and love!