Harriet Tubman and Representation on the $20 Bill

Today is National Freedom Day. 155 years ago, the Emancipation Proclamation was signed into law, ordering the institution of slavery abolished. All this time later, we still have work to do, but we must celebrate the contributions of Black leaders who built this country.

One of those leaders was Harriet Tubman. Not only did she escape slavery as a young woman, but she also helped dozens of slaves follow in her footsteps as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. She fought in the American Civil War, helped lead the women’s suffrage movement, and for her excellence, she was the first Black woman to be honored on a stamp.

It’s no wonder she was nicknamed the “Moses of Her People.”

All of these extraordinary tales of courage and righteousness made her a sensible choice to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. Recently, Jackson has come under fire for his ownership of slaves and his treatment of America’s Indigenous people.

Who better to replace him than an icon of the abolitionist movement?

That is, until the Trump administration reversed course. Citing technical issues, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated that Tubman wouldn’t see the front of the $20 bill until President Trump left office. These claims rang hollow next to Trump’s professed admiration of Andrew Jackson.

$20 bill

Want to know what whiplash is? Whiplash is expecting a Black heroine on the $20 bill during one presidency, then being subjected to praise of one of our most objectionable ones. To deny Harriet Tubman the honor she rightfully deserves in deference to America’s racist past sends a terrible signal to young Black girls. It tells them that history, no matter its crimes, will always supersede their struggle.

Thankfully, the Biden administration has noted this shift and committed to a quick transition to Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. But it has taken far longer than it should have.

It’s a struggle plenty of other countries deem worthy of currency representation. Just three years ago, Canada declared Viola Desmond would grace its $10 bills. Her refusal to move seats on a segregated bus predated Rosa Parks’ more famous protest. Kate Sheppard, a prominent New Zealand suffragette, has occupied her country’s $10 bill for decades now.

Why does the United States refuse to give recognition where it’s due?

The answer to that question is the same as so many we asked in 2020. The country’s past is laden with racism and prejudice. It’s asinine to think that 50 years of desegregation will erase systems and sentiments that have lasted hundreds of years.

To rectify these past injustices, we must reform, reinvest, and reimagine our neighborhoods. But first, we should look at the past and draw inspiration from Black heroes like Harriet Tubman. Looking backward is the only way we can move forward.

Neighborhood FORWARD’s Statement on Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol

We’ve known there are two Americas for some time now.

All summer, we watched as the country marched against police brutality, trying to get the point across that Black Lives Matter. In response, law enforcement rolled through our cities in tanks, sporting weapons of war trained on the very people they swore to protect. When Black America protested, our institutions responded violently and rapidly.

Last week, the rage of those who have felt left behind by progress was on full display. Emboldened by a refusal of their “leader” to condemn white supremacy, whether in Charlottesville or during the Presidential debates, domestic terrorists sought to interfere with a free election and murder high government officials. Bearing nooses and the flag of traitors, they attacked our country.

We’ve known the deck was stacked against people of color for decades. We didn’t, however, know how willing some in government would be to invite this plague into our house.

Between law enforcement spurring terrorists past the barricades and defiant Republican politicians applauding their presence, this was not a display of white privilege, this was a display of white power. It’s a power that is reinforced by our institutions and evident throughout our history. For the last four years, that power has been wielded and weaponized by a significant group of our elected officials.

We deserve better.

Neighborhood FORWARD denounces these actions in the strongest possible terms. The fact that domestic terrorists, encouraged by vicious lies from their authority figures, were allowed to take the house of the people is unacceptable. The fact that they took pictures bragging about their insurrection is unacceptable. The fact that they were encouraged to do this is unacceptable.

No, we don’t want to hear that our leaders are standing in solidarity with us. No, we don’t want to see them kneel while wearing kente cloth. No, we don’t want to hold hands and sing “Kumbaya” with a group seeking the erasure of our neighborhoods and safety.

We want real change, right now. Bold, common-sense reforms are needed to rectify the issues facing us. Providing affordable housing to combat historic redlining can help marginalized groups generate wealth. Prioritizing rehabilitation instead of punishment can end the cycle of recidivism. Making elections simpler for all can erase the legacy of decades of voter suppression.

These reforms can help solve the greatest issues of our time.

The rise of far-right extremism is but one of the many challenges facing our country. It permeates our institutions, communities, and relationships. To combat it, we need structural changes that reinforce the rights of people of color and move our communities forward.

Neighborhood FORWARD calls on every federal elected official to condemn last week’s insurrection. We dually call on Congress and the Biden administration to prioritize efforts to reform, reinvest, and reimagine communities of color across the country.

Moving forward is only possible by looking backwards. As such, let us never forget the events of January 6. May they inspire us to forego empty rhetoric and pursue genuine change.

It’s Time to Have That Uncomfortable Conversation

Being an ally is more than showing up every couple years for a protest. It’s more than putting a black square on your social media, and it’s more than voting for president. Being an ally is an unending process by which individuals can build trust and solidarity with marginalized groups. It isn’t absolute, nor is it easy. But it is something to aspire to in 2021 and every year that follows.

To start, understand that the path of allyship is uncomfortable. You’ll be faced with your implicit biases as well as the real effects that your skin color has had on your life. Be realistic about the world around you and detach your ego from conversations about social justice. Just because you’ve worked hard in life doesn’t mean that you didn’t benefit from systemic injustice.

Learning and listening are the name of the game for allies. Actively researching how our systems impact marginalized groups can broaden how you view your own life. Certainly, that research should include listening to individuals in those marginalized groups. When listening, don’t interrupt with counterpoints, nor play down their hurt. Just listen.

Make sure to take on the struggle of marginalized groups as your own. Allyship is about erasing the distance between “me” and “them” in how you see the world. White people are connected to redlining, police brutality, and environmental injustice, whether they immediately see it or not.allyship-protestors

One of the most powerful demonstrations of allyship came last summer, when white protesters moved to form a line between police and other protesters. This use of white privilege as a literal shield demonstrates the sort of awareness that allyship requires.

Then, turn education into action. Social media is a great tool to spread the word and educate others. But it means nothing if you aren’t there when something happens. Be willing to protest for the cause, to donate resources, and to vote during elections. This is how to create substantive change. Support organizations that are professionally acting in the interest of marginalized groups and in that way, show them you’re an ally.

Allyship is especially important in the workplace. Office taboos and hierarchies tend to keep marginalized people on the outside while punishing those that point out that fact.

This is most obvious during meetings. Look around the room during strategy meetings or presentations. Would the group benefit from having a viewpoint that’s different from the others? The answer is yes. Inclusion has intrinsic value, so decisions made in echo chambers are inherently worse off than those made in diverse groups.


Additionally, pay attention to how others are treated around the office. If you see something objectionable, speak out immediately, not after the fact. Many of us might be scared to go against the grain of more senior employees. But a study found that Black women and Latinas don’t believe they have allies in the workplace. Speaking up in the moment is a clear demonstration that you’re committed to understanding these issues instead of fueling them.

Allyship is also much more than this blog. Please check out Amélie Lamont’s “Guide to Allyship,” an open-sourced and simple guide to being an ally.

Whether in the office, on the street, or in the home, allyship is constant. It will be uncomfortable to engage topics of privilege and your role in discrimination. By embracing this discomfort, you show marginalized groups that you’re ready to use that privilege for good. What could be a better resolution than that?

What Happens When It Gets Cold?

Homelessness is happening year-round, but what happens when it gets cold outside?

The definition of cold to a homeless person is 50 degrees. At 50 degrees, hypothermia can start to set in, and the elements become harsher. Most states get below 50 degrees, even places like Los Angeles, putting their homeless population at risk.

In big cities like Chicago, the amount of homeless people is upwards of 80,000 people, too many for the beds available at homeless shelters. With no beds left for them, people have to turn to the streets during the cold winter months.

On the streets, most homeless people are just trying to find shelter from the elements. In some cities, tents are not allowed and taken from the person using them. Cities claim that the tents block pedestrian walkways or parks. In reality, tents are an easy way to help the homeless population stay warm in the winter and year-round in general, given them as much break from the elements as possible.

When the shelter is full and they can’t use a tent, the homeless population is left with the task to find warmth in other forms. Some people use blankets or coats, others have to use industrial trash bags. But unfortunately, even with all the possible options of warmth used, homeless people still face hypothermia and frostbite. If not treated immediately, loss of limbs and death can occur.

The effects of hypothermia can set in between 32-50 degrees. The body temperature starts to lower below 95 degrees and requires emergency attention. Without that emergency attention, the person can die.

While hypothermia leads to a lot of deaths, frostbite takes the limbs of many homeless people. Frostbite happens when the body becomes exposed to cold weather, and the tissue starts to die because of it. While in mild cases, the area has to be warmed up, in severe cases, the limb may have to be amputated because the tissue has died. It is unknown the number of limbs lost by homeless people, but it continues to affect them every year.

With about 700 people dying from the cold weather and hypothermia each year, cities need to expand the options for the homeless population. There should not be people dying from hypothermia or losing limbs to frostbite when it is preventable. The expansion of homeless shelters needs to happen. There should not be a ban on tents, which serve to protect the body from the elements.

The treatment of the homeless population needs improvement all around, but especially when it comes to the cold months. The easiest thing you can do this winter is consider donating supplies to your local homeless shelters.

AIDS: The Other Disease Hurting Black Americans

December is AIDS Awareness Month

The system of oppression put into place in the healthcare system has continued to fail people of color in all aspects of health, and the AIDS epidemic is no different. While the stereotype surrounding AIDS is that only gay or bisexual men live with the disease, that is not the case.

Black women account for the largest share of new HIV diagnoses. Black transgender women are more likely to have HIV than any other ethnicity or race of transgender women. Black Americans are more likely than any other group to die from Human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome.


Discrimination, stigmatization, poverty, limited access to healthcare, and the fear of the disease. All of these things contribute to Black Americans facing the brunt of the AIDS epidemic.

With less access to private health insurance and limited healthcare options, Black Americans are less likely to be on medication or virally suppressed. The prescriptions to help limit the symptoms of HIV/AIDS and increase the length of the person’s life are often expensive. If the person does not have insurance to cover it, out-of-pocket payments are costly. This leads to a higher risk of unknowingly transmitting HIV.

The stigmatization that surrounds HIV/AIDS leads to the labeling of those individuals as part of a group that is socially unacceptable. Because of this, the person with HIV/AIDS could be socially isolated, or individuals even refusing contact with the person. Black Americans are already discriminated against and adding on an HIV/AIDS diagnosis would only make it worse. While this might not be the case, the fear of this happening prevents people from getting tested.


If the person decides to get tested and does test positive, care is often not sought out because of the price of care. In both situations, it is a losing scenario in a person’s thought process leading to so many not even knowing they have the disease.

Talking about human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome openly, especially the disproportionate effects on the Black community, are necessary to ending the stigmatization behind HIV/AIDS. The healthcare system needs to change how it handles HIV/AIDS and begin to treat it like the epidemic that it is. Neighborhood FORWARD stands with the Black community who have HIV/AIDS and with the Black community that has suffered from the effects of stigmatization.

Mind the Gap: Disparities in Public Transportation

Public transit is how many Americans rely on getting to work, going to the grocery store, or getting access to healthcare. The majority of Americans relying on public transit are communities of color, as they are six times more likely to not have access to a car.

So why are public transportation budgets beginning to be slashed?

Organizations and political groups have spent millions on campaigns and candidates to get them to support increasing highway spending and reducing public transportation spending statewide and federally. Their goal is to get more Americans into their car and spending money in their industry, instead of riding public transit.


These highways help mostly white wealthier communities, taking money away from public transit and effectively hurting poor, predominantly people of color communities.

The slashing of public transit is occurring in New York City as the M.T.A subway and bus services are facing cuts of 40%. Weekend services would be cut the most, 15-minute wait times between trains and some lines just cut out altogether.

With this cutting of lines and extended wait times, low-income and minority communities could have no way to get to work, limited options of accessing healthcare, and a hard time going outside of their communities. With no way to get to work, or not having a reliable way of getting to work, people could lose their jobs, having to apply for unemployment as they look for a job not requiring transit.

While both high-income and low-income workers use public transit, higher-paid workers are more likely to be able to work remotely. Low-income workers do not have that option as readily available. More low-income workers are deemed essential and working in the service industry, relying on public transit.


With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, low-income communities have already been hit the hardest, and limiting public transportation is hurting them even more.

The rhetoric about public transportation has made it out as a money pit, not showing the expansive value public transportation holds.

While limiting public transportation not only hurts the people traveling on public transit, it also could erase 450,000 jobs. These jobs rely on the people coming into the city, spending money, and using their services. With fewer people having the ability to enter the city, it effectively hurts their business. An increase in public transit funding would directly lead to more job growth than highway spending.

Limiting public transportation hurts low-income communities, hurts businesses that rely on the people brought in by public transit, and can negatively affect the New York economy as a whole.

Neighborhood FORWARD believes in the importance of public transportation. We believe that low-income communities deserve to have a way to get work, a way to access healthcare, and a way to go further than somewhere within walking distance.


There’s Systemic Racism in the Food, Send It Back

Finding a meal or a snack to eat is something most Americans, especially white Americans, do not worry about. They aren’t facing empty pantries or lacking the amount of money they need to buy food to address their hunger. They are not worried about having the amount of money to fit their dietary needs or desires.


However, one out of six Americans do not get that luxury and face hunger in their day-to-day life, wondering when their next meal will be. People facing hunger often comes with being below the poverty line and not having the disposable income to buy healthy food. In Black households, hunger occurs two times more than their white counterparts.


But hunger does not just have to do with poverty, it also stems from systemic racism at all levels. The ability to build capital, such as buying a home, is systemically stacked against Black Americans. Because of this, they are more likely to reside in a food desert.


Food deserts are more likely to be found in Black and Brown communities and low-income areas. Meaning, that specific areas do not have a grocery store or a place to grow their own food. This leads to people having to travel out of their community to get access to food, making it more time consuming.


Even if an area has a corner store, it often does not include healthy food. When those stores have healthy food it is priced outrageously high. The price of the food also has a systemic effect. In food deserts, people are more likely to go for cheaper food with a longer shelf life they can grab on the go. Healthy food options need to be accessible for every American.


This holiday season, especially with COVID-19, many families and individuals are facing food insecurity and hunger. Consider donating healthy options to local food banks or people in your community facing hunger or partner with a local organization to help feed families. Neighborhood FORWARD was honored to do our part by joining Fathers Who Care Chicago and The Epworth Foundation in Denver to help provide Thanksgiving meals to families.

Systemic Racism in food

Thanksgiving Pick Up in Denver
Systemic Racism in food

Fathers Who Care Chicago Thanksgiving Celebration


If you or a loved one are facing hunger and food insecurity consider finding a local food bank.

Another Failure by the Healthcare System to People of Color

November is National Diabetes Month

It is not new information that people of color are disproportionately affected by diseases. One of these diseases is diabetes. Upwards of 30 million Americans have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and 55.6 % of those people are people of color.  It’s important to see how they are being disproportionately affected and how to help them.

Black and Brown Americans are 77% more likely to develop diabetes. Part of this has to do with the poverty rates in their communities. Disproportionately affected, Black and Brown people often end up in areas where there are not as many healthy food options and have limited access to physical exercise equipment. Additionally, These communities do not have the same quality of healthcare as white communities and lack access to a regular physician.

Furthermore, diabetes is a disease that requires medication in order to be managed. The prices of these medications have risen by 58%. However, because of systemic racism, it’s harder for people of color to make money and build capital. Therefore, it is harder for people of color to afford the insulin and medication they need to survive.

diabetes chart

With insulin costing upwards of $300, people resort to rationing or crowdfunding their next prescription. However, rationing medication does not properly treat diabetes and it can also unfortunately lead to diabetic ketoacidosis. Diabetic ketoacidosis causes death and has taken more lives each year as the price of insulin has gone up.


The expense of diabetes medication is out of control. There must be a stop to increasing prices, or a healthcare system that takes the burden off the shoulders of these communities. Why are the people most likely to be affected by it the least likely to be insured?

This is why there needs to be a change in the healthcare system for medications altogether, but especially for diabetes. People should not have to ration medication that is saving their lives because it is too expensive.


We see that there needs to be a change. Neighborhood FORWARD stands with disproportionately affected communities.

A Cops and Robbers Story – November 11th, 2020

About Corey Pegues:

Corey Pegues, a board member of Neighborhood FORWARD, is the subject of the movie “A Cops and Robbers Story” that will be released on November 11, 2020. Corey Pegues, a Queens New York native, is a retired NYPD executive. Rising through the ranks of the NYPD, Pegues worked for New York City for 21 years, become an exemplary commander and public servant. Pegues is known for bridging the gap between the community and police, and tells his story in “Once a Cop,” a memoir of his life growing up as a drug dealer to becoming a part of the police department.


A Cops and Robbers Story:

In the 1980s, Corey Pegues found himself selling crack on the streets as part of a gang known as the “Supreme Team.” Changing his course, Pegues went on to serve 21 years with the New York City Police Department, and in that time became one of NYPD’s most high-ranking commanders. His movie, “A Cops and Robbers Story,” tells the compelling narrative of how Pegues’ former life as a gang member forever changed the treatment he received by the police community.


Purchase Tickets to “A Cops and Robbers Story” Here 

Things That Law & Order Didn’t Show

With the continuing racial bias that is happening around the country, New York State completed a report to give a better look at their court system. This report interviewed 289 individuals including court clerks, court attorneys, and other personnel involved with the New York court system.

This report not only found that court officers often have been saying and doing overtly racist acts, but racism is systemic as well.

Looking at the racism of court officers in New York, there have been severe cases of officers posting racist memes or making comments that had a racial bias. Court officers of color interviewed in a recent report commented that they often heard racial slurs that went unpunished and if the officer faces punishment it is not one that results in a changed attitude by the officer.

In the courthouse, people heard court officers calling teenagers the “n-word.” Some officers were also disrespectful to lawyers and defendants of color when they were in the courthouse. It goes deeper than disrespect. Officers using racial slurs towards people of color have been heard multiple times in New York courthouses.

These biases are not the only occurrences of racism going on. People of color are more likely to have to wear handcuffs than their white counterparts when sitting in the courtroom. A “second class system of justice” is what the people of color in New York are experiencing.

New York court officers need to be held accountable immediately. They need to be fired for racial remarks, not the second or third time it happens but the first time it happens. While diversity and inclusion training help, there needs to be a set of rules that keeps the officers accountable.

People of color court officers deserve equality. People of color who are attending court, whether they have been charged or not, deserve equality. People of color deserve equality.

The systemic racism in the New York court system needs to stop NOW.

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