JUNETEENTH GUEST BLOG BY Andre Chapman, Founder & CEO, Unity care
June 30, 2022
JUNETEENTH GUEST BLOG BY
Andre chapman, Founder & CEO, Unity care
June 19th, 1865 – more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation of Proclamation – when enslaved people in Texas finally received word that they were free. Amidst the political unrest around Roe v. Wade and other pressing issues, the holiday came and went without much notice – a few media mentions of festivals and a day off work, with many people dismissing it as merely a “Black holiday.” Unfortunately, the majority of Americans fail to understand the celebration isn’t just for people of African ancestry – it’s a celebration of a defining moment in American history.
Slavery was the capitalistic enterprise of free labor that is estimated to have generated more than14-trillion dollars of economic impact for the United States. With the ratification of the 13th amendment ending slavery, it also left the southern economy shattered. In response, the government created a loophole in the 13th amendment that slavery as a punishment for a crime is still allowed. Therefore; anyone found to be vagrant, without a job or loitering would be incarcerated then given the opportunity to work off their crimes. Of course, freed slaves made up the majority of those impacted which planted the seeds of mass incarceration in America.
Today African Americans are still burdened by the legacy of Slavery in every life domain – healthcare, housing, education, employment, voting rights and the legal system. As such, Juneteenth not only commemorates the end of slavery, it represents our continued march as a nation towards fulfilling the promise: freedom and justice for all.
There’s never been a time in U.S. history where the freedom of African Americans was not under some form of attack. From Slavery, Peonage, Jim Crow, Civil Rights and today the New Jim Crow, the historical trauma of feeling unsafe in our own skin is today’s reality. Unlike Germany which acknowledged its grave atrocities during the Holocaust and made every effort to reconcile, atone and make reparations through funding, education and legislation, America has never atoned for its original sin of slavery.
Today we see its impact more than ever in the foster care system. Foster care is home to more than 430,000 children with African Americans overrepresented by more than 3-times their general population. More than half of former foster youth become homeless within 2-years after leaving foster care and less than 3% graduate from college. More than 25% are in prison within 2-years of emancipating and 1 in 4will experience PTSD.
Foster youth carry the weight of life-long trauma, having been separated from their families due to poverty, neglect or abuse, shuffled between a dozen foster homes, a dozen schools, and a dozen neighborhoods throughout their childhood. Most have been robbed of love, psychological well-being, a sense of belonging and knowledge of their cultural heritage. The education system fails to adequately teach American history - the heroic acts and contributions of Black people or convey the extent of the hardships we’ve endured. In fact, our government and school systems around the country are aggressively seeking to re-write history and delete critical race theory – implying it’s ok for a black child to experience racism, but it’s not ok for a white child to learn about it.
For these reasons, among others, Juneteenth is of tremendous importance, not just to people of African ancestry, but to our nation as a whole. So let us celebrate and honor the end of slavery and recommit to our continuing march towards freedom and justice for all.
André Chapman has built his mission around supporting underserved youth in foster care. He is the Founder & CEO of Unity Care, a non-profit establishing housing, social programs and education initiatives for foster youth. He is an author, advocate, and speaker residing in Northern California.
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