Over the past month, we have celebrated Freedom with Juneteenth and with the Independence Day. I’m not sure how many people understand Juneteenth, but I’d love to share my first experience with you.
Several years ago, I’m not sure how many, I was invited to a Juneteenth celebration at the Woodinville Community Facility. That is a state facility. It was odd, to me, to celebrate the day that the last slaves in America were declared free. You can read the history at the National Museum of African American History & Culture.
At that first celebration that I attended, it was a few talks from leaders of the Black community and a BBQ. The next year, it was held at King County Juvenile Detention, outside, on the grounds. Honor level youth were allowed to attend. Larry Gossett was a speaker. Of course there was food. And they brought kids from the community facilities to this event. In the gym, they had a display of items from the enslavement era in the US. It was horrifying to read the depths of the inhumanity that white America visited upon those who were enslaved. I am sure that my southern history class did not cover even half of what I learned that day.
You can find some artifacts of slavery at the slavery & remembrance website from the UN.
You may ask why Juneteenth is so important to detention centers. The reason is the disproportionate affect that incarceration has on people of color. Additionally, our concept of policing is directly taken from the policing strategy developed after enslaved people were freed. There is a direct line from white supremacy to modern policing. Does that mean that every police person is outwardly racist? No. But it does mean that the system is deeply rooted in bias that works against BIPOC youth (Black, Indigenous, People of Color).
We are all doing our work to decrease bias—at least I hope we are. We see the evidence in King County by observing the decrease of youth held in incarceration. With an average daily population of about 40 kids in a county that has about 450,000 youth under the age of 18, that is about 0.00888% who are incarcerated. Of course, within that small percentage, the youth are disproportionately from the BIPOC community. We, the societal we, continue to explore ways that systems are biased against youth of color to produce such an outcome. But we have come a long ways! Now, we have to work towards other counties realizing the same results that have been realized in King County. The work is just beginning!
Last month, we shared our goals. We will be sharing updates monthly as an accountability measure.
We have accomplished the first goal! We donated 10 refurbished tables acquired from the company store at Microsoft to Community Passageways for at-risk-youth who need tables or laptops to do homework.
We are currently working on a fundraising plan which is due by August 30, 2022. We decided to do a mini-fundraiser in July called “Christmas in July: The Twelve Days of Giving.” We have a small goal of just $5000 to help us purchase spiritual materials for youth. Look for that launch in about 10 days!
We have removed a volunteer recruitment drive for June and July because we recruited folks without doing a drive! And our other goals are coming along.
Thank you all for being accountability partners!
If you have any ideas or feel called to help in any way, please reach out! We are wiser and better together.
Rev. Terri Jane Stewart