Blog

Juneteenth is Independence Day.

Following the American Civil War, states were slow to officially end the practice of slavery. In fact, over 8 months passed between the surrender of the Confederacy and the full ratification of the Emancipation Proclamation. States like Texas, too remote for a perpetual Union presence, resisted the end of slavery and served as a sort of safe haven for slavers. This general refusal necessitated federal intervention – which kicked off the tradition of Juneteenth.

On June 19, 1865, Union Major General Gordon Granger marched into Galveston, Texas, and formally announced the abolition of slavery:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.

From that day forward, June 19th has been celebrated as the end of slavery. The next year, freedmen organized the first Jubilee Day and celebrated by distributing voting instructions and pooling money together to buy land. For decades, Texas and the national Black community recognized Juneteenth, until the Great Depression and Jim Crow-era oppression forced an end to the annual celebration.

 

In the latter half of the twentieth century, however, Juneteenth sawa resurgence in popularity. In the late 1970s, Texas declared the day a “holiday of significance . . . particularly to the blacks of Texas,” becoming the first state to do so. Since then, 46 other states have joined the Lone Star State and the holiday has garnered increasing mainstream attention.

But that’s as far as we’ve gone with respect to Juneteenth…until now. Hawaii, North Dakota, and South Dakota have all refused to annually recognize the holiday – as has the federal government until today.

Juneteenth will now be a full-scale federal holiday on par with Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and all of the others. U.S. companies use the federal government’s recommendations for holidays with paid time off 97% of the time, per the Society for Human Resource Management. Corporate America will likely follow suit.

There is implicit value in recognizing June 19th annually. Slavery is one of our country’s original sins and one we still haven’t fully reconciled. Establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday will spur this process, which requires total awareness and honesty. It’s one of the most important holidays in the Black community and thus deserves this designation.

Juneteenth is an entire community’s Independence Day. It deserves its admittedly late federal holiday title and should be widely celebrated.

Neighborhood FORWARD Statement on the Ocean Park, MD Police Department Incident

Over the weekend, the Ocean City, MD Police Department tased teenagers in an effort to enforce a local vaping ordinance. 

 

Black and Brown law enforcement officials and experts have made it clear to us that this has always been a potential outcome of prohibitions against flavored tobacco and vaping products. Rather than invest in educational resources to dissuade young people from smoking or vaping​​​, our leaders have opted for an outdated ban, right out of the War on Drugs playbook, that has disproportionately punished Black and Brown communities​​​​​​​​​. 

 

Neighborhood FORWARD and our affiliates are calling for a thorough investigation into the incident and a total reconsideration of such laws and proposals across the country.

JUNE 11, 2021 NF LEGISLATIVE ROUNDUP: OUR RACIST PAST

Legislators in Oregon and Connecticut have been tangling with our racist past through legislation. Here are the highlights and lowlights!

Connecticut

  • HB6476
    • Why we’re watching: For the first time in 30 years, Connecticut will undergo a study to analyze discrimination against women- and minority-owned businesses in state contracts. The legislation’s sponsors noted the moment of reckoning following George Floyd’s death as a springboard for this initiative.
  • Amendment 501 to SB1073
    • Why we’re watching: Although the measure was defeated, its very existence is troubling. Public schools are confronting our racist past every day in history classrooms, informing students about events like the Tulsa Race Massacre. Many lawmakers would rather bury our past and paint a less confrontational and false history.

 Oregon

  • SB398
    • Why we’re watching: Nooses are a signal of white supremacy and a relic of our racist past. There’s no legitimate reason to publicly display a noose, and Oregon agrees. From now on, the presentation of a noose will be a hate crime, as long as Gov. Kate Brown does the right thing and signs the near-unanimously approved bill.
  • HB2935
    • Why we’re watching: This bill, also known as the CROWN Act, bans race-based hair discrimination. While Oregon has banned most discrimination from workplaces already, this addition permits Black workers to express themselves without worrying about their employment status.
  • HCR11
    • Why we’re watching: Since 1927, Oregon’s state song, “Oregon, My Oregon,” contained racist language emphasizing the virtue of fair-skinned, free men. Although the song is rarely sung, it’s an unfortunate example of the state’s racist past – one that took almost 100 years to rectify.

What do you think of the bills in this week’s legislative roundup? Did we miss anything? Drop us a line on any of our social channels or hit us up through our contact us form. Let us know what’s happening in YOUR neighborhood!

Low wages and high recidivism? Prison labor doesn’t add up.

This month is National Wildfire Awareness Month, and for good reason. As the weather heats up across the country, park rangers will start watching for faraway pillars of smoke, indicating a potentially devastating forest fire. Climate change shows no signs of slowing down, nor do wildfires. They will continue to wreak havoc on our country’s most natural, beautiful places. Thankfully, we’ve created a number of groups and task forces to combat these blazes. A lot of them, however, use prison labor.

Last year, over 600 fires raged across California. Thousands of incarcerated men and women fought the blazes under terrible conditions and insufficient pay. Such labor is an abuse of our incarceration system and indicates a larger, more serious problem.

Our country incarcerates more people than any other. If we were to round up all of American’s prisoners, the population would rank among our largest cities. As of 2019, the total prison population was around 2.19 million prisoners. Our decades-long war on drugs has created the most overly eager criminal justice system in the world, hell-bent on locking up people of color at disproportionate rates.

Obviously, our institutions can’t let such a vast group of people sit there without performing a service.

So many of these prisoners perform labor for subpar wages. Their responsibilities range from transcribing textbooks to manufacturing military equipment. An admittedly non-comprehensive list of companies that use prison labor can be found here. The range of industries in which prison labor is prominent is fairly surprising.

In federal prisons, these workers can earn between 12 cents and 40 cents per hour for their work.

Besides being drastically lower than the federal minimum wage, this pay often comes with stipulations. A significant chunk of that money automatically goes towards criminal justice system fees. Saving this already measly salary is almost impossible. That, along with underfunded and neglected post-release support systems, foster recidivism. So not only do private interests exploit racist criminal justice tendencies, but prison labor is a self-sustaining institution. The low wages help sustain the labor pool.

The exploitation of prisoners for cheap, sometimes dangerous labor must end. Even those fighting wildfires only earn $2.90 a day for their work. States like California have dangled expungement as an incentive to sign up for firefighting programs. Until recent, the same states have banned ex-offenders from serving as firefighters upon release.

Prison labor is a system full of contradictions and harmful institutions. Not only is exploiting our deeply flawed criminal justice system immoral, but the labor itself is as well. Prisoners deserve real wages that can help them once they serve their time. Aside from abolishing prison labor in general, mandating a higher base pay will reduce repeat offenders and help rehabilitate prisoners.

Instead of taking advantage of mostly people of color, let’s create a system that works for incarcerated people, not abuses them. If we make time in prison valuable, then it will pay dividends down the line within our criminal justice system.

JUNE 4, 2021 NF LEGISLATIVE ROUNDUP: DISPROPORTIONATE IMPACTS

For years, legislators have been complacent in their proposals’ disproportionate impacts on minority groups. Here’s some bills fixing that!

Arizona

  • SCR1044
    • Why we’re watching: This legislation would repeal a state law that forces Dreamers who graduate from Arizona high schools to pay out-of-state tuition at public universities. Such reform would positively impact the lives of nearly 2,000 Arizona residents every year.

Colorado

  • HB1117
    • Why we’re watching: Redlining is the root of so many disproportionate impacts against people of color. The financial policy of limiting Black homeownership in some neighborhoods helped create our affordable housing crisis. This bill in Colorado will permit municipalities to require new developments have a minimum number of affordable rental units.

Illinois

  • SB825
    • Why we’re watching: Every year, we suggest making election day a federal holiday. Illinois must have been listening! An omnibus elections bill does exactly that for the general election in 2022. Hopefully, this measure will improve voter turnout by giving some Illinoisans the day off.
  • SB2122
    • Why we’re watching: Police malpractice has disproportionately affected marginalized groups for decades. Now, Illinois law enforcement is prohibited from lying to all youth during interrogations, a practice which can lead to false confessions and wrongful convictions.

Oregon

  • HB2168
    • Why we’re watching: June 19, or Juneteenth, is an especially important day in the Black community. In 1865, Union General Gordon Granger marched into Galveston, TX and announced the abolition of slavery. The holiday has been celebrated ever since as a second Independence Day of sorts, and now, Oregon will hopefully recognize it as a state holiday.

What do you think of the bills in this week’s legislative roundup? Did we miss anything? Drop us a line on any of our social channels or at info@neighborhoodforward.com or you can contact us through our contact us form. Let us know what’s happening in YOUR neighborhood!

It’s homeownership month! Well, it is for some.

The pandemic exposed the lack of affordable housing throughout the country. But disparities in Black homeownership have existed for decades.

In fact, homeownership gaps are worse today than in 1960.

Back then, white people and Black people owned homes at a 65% and 38% rate, respectively. This 27-point difference widened to 30 as of 2017. Any progress made following the 1968 Fair Housing Act was wiped out by the subprime mortgage crisis of the late-2000s.

People of color were disproportionately victims of predatory loan practices. In other words, financial institutions offered them subprime loans even if they qualified for prime loans. Black homebuyers also bought more homes during the bubble than their white and Asian counterparts. The housing market took advantage of Black homeowners when things were going well, so the mortgage crisis hit them especially hard.

This tool by the Urban Institute clearly demonstrates the effect of the crisis on minority homeownership. Every yellow dot and pink dot on the left represents 10 mortgages in 2006 from Black and Hispanic homeowners, respectively. On the right is the same map following the market’s crash in 2010. See the difference?

The effects of the crash devastated Black and Hispanic homeownership. Since then, the recovery for Black families has lagged behind that for white families as well. After 2010, Black homeownership rates actually fell 5%. The map below is from 2019 and shows that Black homeownership hasn’t recovered.

This slow progress has widespread impacts on marginalized communities. Mortgages are still one of the best ways to build family wealth. Homeowners can find tax breaks, build credit, and homes often appreciate in value. Barriers to the housing market prevent families of color from securing these benefits.

When our institutions effectively prevent people from creating intergenerational wealth, they’re locking families into poverty for decades. This process began decades ago with redlining, in which banks refused to give home loans to families of color depending on where they wanted to move.

So now, our cities are full of minority-dominated areas and primarily white areas. Redlining creates underinvestment in communities of color and hampered wealth creation for generations.

Redlining is systemic racism – and minority homeownership is yet another effect.

By offering advantageous home loans and increased tax credits, we can begin to reverse the effects of redlining and reduce homeownership disparities. At some point, we must work to break the cycle of poverty for millions. There’s no time like the present.

MAY 28, 2021 NF LEGISLATIVE ROUNDUP: LET’S FIGHT INEQUALITY

As state legislative sessions wind down, efforts to fight inequality persist. Keep scrolling to check out the bills that caught our eye!

Arizona 

  • SCR1044
    • Why we’re watching: Amid the prolonged drama over the 2020 general election vote in Arizona, some real progress is happening. This proposal would permit equal access to in-state tuition rates for Arizona high school graduates, regardless of immigration status, fighting inequality inherent in higher education for non-citizens in the state.
  • HB2893
    • Why we’re watching: Sometimes legislation is a mixed bag. This bill would equip all Arizona state troopers with body cams and make it harder for citizens to access that footage. Such a caveat is at odds with public records law and fundamentally undercuts the effectiveness of police accountability measures.

Colorado

  • HB1521
    • Why we’re watching: In 2019, Aurora police officers murdered Elijah McClain during an unnecessary and extralegal encounter. Officers injected McClain with excessive amounts of ketamine to subdue him, leading to his eventual death. This legislation seeks to ban that practice in the state of Colorado.

Illinois

  • Chicago Police Reform Plan
    • Why we’re watching: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot unveiled her police reform plan on the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death, seeking to employ citizen oversight groups to fight inequality. Chicago is no stranger to police brutality, so this plan comes just in time. But many activists, are criticizing the proposal as watered down and ineffective.
  • HB2381
    • Why we’re watching: Air quality is worse in urban, majority-minority areas than in whiter, suburban neighborhoods. To address this disparity, Gov. Pritzker is backing legislation establishing environmental justice areas and increases industry oversight and regulation for polluters.

What do you think of the bills in this week’s legislative roundup? Did we miss anything? Drop us a line on any of our social channels or at info@neighborhoodforward.com or you can contact us through our contact us form. Let us know what’s happening in YOUR neighborhood!

 

Pomp and Circumstance and Property Taxes

It’s just about graduation time across the country. In small towns and large cities, pomp and circumstance will play as graduates walk across the stage to start a new chapter in their lives. There’s no better time to reflect on how their education was funded – with property taxes.

Of all the issues in public education, there’s none more debated than funding, which currently involves using property taxes. In fact, nearly half of school funding comes from local property taxes. In essence, families pay for the schools they send their children to. Sounds sensible, right?

But this system is degrading the quality of public education for millions of minority students across the country.

The fatal flaw of relying on property taxes to fund K-12 education is that a low-income area can’t generate enough revenue. Schools on Chicago’s southside simply don’t have access to the same resources as suburban schools. As a result, the quality of education remains stagnant, and as families notice the poor state of schools, they avoid the area. Then, there’s even less tax revenue to pull from.

It’s a vicious cycle that must be ended. Luckily, there are some solutions.

One such idea is centralizing funding. Following a Supreme Court decision, California adopted this policy. In 1976, the state equalized property tax rates to minimize disparities in per-student spending. The disparities between the most and least affluent districts became virtually non-existent within a few years.

Another solution is boosting other revenue streams. Federal funding of education only accounts for 8% of school budgets. It has never eclipsed 10%. Public education should be a priority of our federal government and its budget should reflect that. There are mountains of data demonstrating the relationship between education and economic growth. Investment now will pay dividends later.

A final means of equalizing educational opportunity is weighted per-pupil spending. In this mechanism, states develop a formula to allocate funds to districts. In the formula, students from low-income families are assigned more weight. This gets the money where it needs to go while addressing institutional and historical inequity among Black and Brown communities.

Education can be the silver bullet to solving poverty and equalizing opportunity. But first, we must equalize education itself. A diploma from the wealthiest districts of our nation should mean the same as a diploma from the poorest districts.

In this way, we can ensure every child has the means to overcome their lot in life and build a better future.

NF LEGISLATIVE ROUNDUP: WEEK OF MAY 21, 2021

For the last week, our elected officials have been hard at work as sessions wrap up across the country. Some passed bills with social justice provisions – check them out!

California

  • AB26
    • Why we’re watching: If a town has 100 bad cops and one good cop, but the good cop doesn’t stand up to the others, the town has 101 bad cops. This legislation would require officers to intervene against their coworkers should they think the latter is using excessive force.

Connecticut

  • SB888
    • Why we’re watching: More and more Connecticuters approve of legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, per SB888. However, many state legislators are critical of the legislation’s social justice provisions. We cannot pass up such a great opportunity to effect real criminal justice reforms that helps reverse decades of overpolicing our neighborhoods.

Illinois

  • HB1443
    • Why we’re watching: When Illinois legalized marijuana, legislators created a lottery system to grant licenses to stores owned by marginalized individuals. Once the pandemic began, those social justice provisions were thrown out of the window. This bill reestablishes the importance of equity in cannabis licensing procedure, a necessary part of legalization.

Missouri

  • SB53
    • Why we’re watching: Our criminal justice system is deeply flawed and often reaches the wrong conclusions. This legislation would permit local prosecutors to seek justice following wrongful convictions. More importantly, the legislation would help death row inmates, who have been proven innocent, actually secure their freedom.

Oregon

  • HB2358
    • Why we’re watching: During the pandemic, farm laborers survived brutal conditions to do necessary work. Now, an Oregon proposal seeks to lower overtime requirements for these essential workers. A majority of this group comes from marginalized communities, making this reform an important development in social justice.

What do you think of the bills in this week’s legislative roundup? Did we miss anything? Drop us a line on any of our social channels or at info@neighborhoodforward.com or you can contact us through our contact us form. Let us know what’s happening in YOUR neighborhood!

His Name Lives On: George Floyd’s Impact, A Year Later

On May 25, 2020, an event in Minneapolis, MN happened that seemed to make the whole world stop. On that day, George Floyd, a Black man was killed at the hands of a police officer, Derek Chauvin, which set off anger and protests all over the world.

The anger that rippled worldwide was felt because yet again, an innocent life was taken due to negligence and disregard of a person’s life. “I can’t breathe,” didn’t mean anything to Derek Chauvin, as he held his knee on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes which caused George to die.

George Floyd mural after his death

Protesting and looting happened worldwide because of this unnecessary action, and sure, while things may have been stolen and destroyed – all these things can be replaced. A man’s life? Cannot.

While this story isn’t new, people all over are tired of hearing the same narrative. Black lives being taken by the same people who are meant to serve and protect them, going unnoticed without receiving the proper repercussions to get the justice they deserve. But in George Floyd’s case, his story may be a little different.

On April 20, 2021, Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges against him for George Floyd’s death. A moment that the world will remember forever because although this should be expected, many police officers who kill Black and Brown people are usually given the same punishment – a lengthy leave with pay. Not this time. Justice was truly served in honor of the late George Floyd.

Because of George Floyd’s impact, we hope that this moment in time is only the start of what’s to come with holding police accountable for their inexcusable actions against Black and Brown people.

Justice was truly served for George Floyd, which was beautiful to witness. Although we aren’t going to get him back, his family and all that loved him were able to see that his death won’t go in vain.

George Floyd’s untimely death will be remembered for time to come and will hopefully set the standard for how police should be reprimanded for police brutality moving forward.

Scroll to top