Welcome to our first racial equity blog post!
This new blog will serve to bring awareness to various racial equity and racial justice topics. Some of these topics will be of a historic nature, while some will be relevant to current happenings in our city (Portland), in our state (Oregon), in our country (the United States), and the larger world. Our additional intent is for these blogs to be inclusive of the voices of the people most central to CHNW, our residents and employees, who we’ll be inviting to submit future posts for this blog. Stay tuned for monthly posts!
June is a historically rich month with events that have changed this country and have changed the world. For starters, Juneteenth (commemorated annually on June 19th) is the day in 1865 when enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas received news that they had been freed. This notification arrived more than two months after the Civil War (1861-65) ended and nearly 2.5 years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which declared chattel slavery abolished in the United States. As of 2020, 47 of the 50 states observe Juneteenth, and in correspondence with the current racial reckoning happening in this country, there has been a re-energized chorus of voices calling for Juneteenth to receive federal holiday observance.
In April 2021, Oregon State University announced that its campus would observe Juneteenth as an annual holiday going forward, and Portland State University made the same announcement for its campus in May 2021. CHNW has observed Juneteenth as a company-wide holiday in 2020 and again in 2021, with the observance set this for Friday, June 18th. On June 1, 2021, the Oregon State Senate approved Oregon House Bill #2168 to officially observe Juneteenth as a stay holiday going forward beginning in 2022. Both the Oregon House and the Oregon Senate voted unanimously, 53-0 and 28-0, respectively. It is important for Juneteenth to receive widespread observance, as the centuries-long chapter of the slavery of Black Americans is inescapably connected to the founding of this country, to its accumulation of wealth, to the current experiences of African Americans (including anti-Blackness), and to the larger topics of race and race-relations in the United States. (As I am drafting this, I just received news that the U.S. Senate voted unanimously today to make Juneteenth a federal holiday).
June is also Pride Month in the United States and in many countries worldwide. It’s a time for trans and queer communities alike to celebrate themselves, their chosen families, and to pause in reflection about TGLBQ+ achievements and the strides yet to go. As many know, the infamous 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York were the catalyst for the modern-day movement for trans, queer, and gay rights. This is definitely true, however all events of those 3-day riots have not been conveyed accurately throughout history. What is not widely known is that it was Black trans women and other trans women of color who were on the frontline of the resistance and the offense that first night against the police. Trans women like Marsha P. Johnson (1945-92), Sylvia Rivera (1951-02), the fabulous Miss Major Griffin-Gracy (b.1940), and other women of color like Stormé DeLarverie (1920-2014). Link
In short, trans women and people of color — specifically Black trans women — were at the forefront of initiating what has become gay pride celebrations. It’s important to tell events correctly, as history is often and intentionally omitted, forgotten, and/or rewritten. People of color have traditionally been excluded in the context of gay visibility and trans people have traditionally been sidelined and not fully accepted within gay communities. The progressive flag (pictured above and created in Portland) attempts to bring stronger visibility and inclusion of Black, Brown, and Trans voices in its 2018 redesign of the original rainbow flag (1978).
With this American history being shared, we wish everyone a Happy Pride Month and a Happy Juneteenth! May it bring expansiveness and opportunities to learn, share, grow, and to build and bridge communities.