Terrie Johnson | First 5 LA Contract Compliance Officer, Contract Administration and Purchasing Team


FIRST 5 LA CELEBRATES JUNETEENTH

Today, June 18, First 5 LA has closed its office in honor of the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. We share in recognizing Juneteenth – June 19 – as a day of imperative learning and a time for critical reflection so that collectively we can build a safe, just and equitable future for our nation’s and L.A. County’s young children and families. We are proud to be a leader among L.A. County’s public systems in recognizing Freedom Day as a day for enlightenment and to engage.


June 19, 2021

Since June 19, 1865, “Juneteenth” has been synonymous with the moniker created by freed slaves in observance and celebration of the news Union soldiers carried to Galveston, Texas, that the war had ended and the enslaved were free. The news arrived 2.5 years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed on Jan. 1, 1863, declaring all enslaved people in states engaged in rebellion against the Union “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” The news arrived five months before the 13th Amendment was adopted, formally abolishing slavery.

Texas was a confederate state, deemed a safe haven for slave ownership, where slave owners prioritized harvest season over the news of freedom. Once free, former slaves made their way to new beginnings in other states carrying with them the celebration of Juneteenth.

The first time I attended a Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) training session was for a contract compliance seminar I attended in Chicago. I couldn’t believe the instructors were openly talking about the exclusions and injustices against people of color. I wept tears of joy and relief. It was so cleansing. Someone was sharing… we see what you’ve been going through.  You are not alone.

According to the 1965 Moynihan Report on Black poverty in the United States, “American slavery was profoundly different from, and in its lasting effects on individuals and their children, indescribably worse than, any recorded servitude, ancient or modern.”

It’s hard to believe that more than 150 years after the 13th Amendment was passed, the ideologies of slavery and superiority over other human beings persists. The lies and half-truths taught and that we’ve told ourselves about our history have created conscious and unconscious biases that have permeated the fabric of our lives. 

Systemic racism is a deeper dimension of marginalization or pervasive oppression of individuals because of their race; seeped into and deeply embedded into our systems and cultural institutions.  

Never more so than this past year of the pandemic have the roots of systemic racism been exposed than through the inequities evident in communities of color. 

Each is a contradiction to First 5 LA’s North Star and value commitment of diversity, equity and inclusion and our work to right the ships in healthcare, early care and education, communities, and supports for families.

The infant mortality rate among black infants is 2.4 times higher than that of white infants. Black women in the U.S. are three to four times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related causes. Within the early education system, racial wage gaps and professional opportunity limitations for women of color are historical, pervasive and directly contribute to economic inequality for those who care for and teach young children. 

Systematic racism is about decisions made by people who may not even realize their biases and are responsible for making decisions that affect people of color adversely. Systematic racism exists in our daycare, schools, healthcare, banks, everywhere that biased decisionmakers exist.

My mother and her sisters always used to tell us kids, “What’s done is dark will eventually come to light.” What this means to me is not so much about the discovery as it is about the healing. When lies are exposed, when wrongs are acknowledged, the healing can begin. Secrets harbor in darkness, but in the light, their power dissipates.

We have to acknowledge the atrocities before we can begin to heal them.

Four hundred years of abuse and trauma do not disappear overnight. We are one race, the human race. Because we are all inter-connected, we cannot fix a part of ourselves and allow other elements to fester. As is the approach in therapy, to engage in the healing process you must first address the problems – uncovering past truths or trauma contributing to current and intergenerational pain.

If we can embrace the pain of the past, the promise of joy and equality in the future shines brightly.

We can do this together, heal our past wounds, clear our biases and become better stewards of equality.




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