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Juneteenth 2023

On Juneteenth 2023, the BUILD Initiative celebrates countless history-making African Americans – from scientists, teachers, authors, and politicians to activists, athletes, and entertainers. Books have been filled with their achievements which are too numerous to list, but we’d be remiss to not include just a few here and here.

We also celebrate the strength of a people who have remained resilient in the face of a long and continuing history of systemic oppression. And we remember that the struggle for equity among African Americans is ongoing: Black people in this country still “face systematically higher unemployment rates, fewer job opportunities, lower pay, poorer benefits, and greater job instability” than their white colleagues. Looking at just one example, more than two million people in the US are our young children’s educators. They make up an experienced workforce that is largely women, often women of color and immigrants, providing care and education, yet they are devalued. Their experience, knowledge and skills are often ignored, and their well-being undermined by poor working conditions and low pay and Black educators are routinely paid less than their peers.

News of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached Galveston, Texas 158 years ago. On Juneteenth, we honor Black resilience, but we also recommit to using our respective roles to dismantle systemic inequities and put an end to seemingly never-ending delays to justice. Black resilience alone cannot overcome the structural and systemic roots of our country’s racism. As Chris Watler, Executive Vice President, Center for Employment Opportunities noted, “White people must also do their work, and it begins by listening to Black people, understanding Black history, and addressing the present-day manifestations of racism.” But listening alone is not enough. White people must also take action and ensure that we/they are not complicit in maintaining white privilege and power disparities.

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