On June 19, we commemorate the anniversary of the official end of slavery in the U.S, also known as Juneteenth. Although it took Congress more than 150 years to pass legislation recognizing it as a federal holiday, people in the Black community have long celebrated this date with festivals, prayer services, community events, and parades. This day also serves as an important time to reflect on the ongoing need to confront racism — and work toward being explicitly anti-racist — in our homes, workplaces, and communities.
As a healthcare provider, Planned Parenthood South Atlantic sees every day how lives and livelihoods are deeply affected by the long-ranging consequences of slavery, economic and social oppression, and racism. We see glaring examples of this in the states we serve every day:
In North Carolina, Black pregnant people are two and a half times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white counterparts.
In South Carolina, Black pregnant people are 2.6 times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than their white counterparts
As an organizer, I have seen my community come together to celebrate Black excellence and fight anti-Black racism, especially in the past year. But more work needs to be done. That’s why it is important to not only celebrate Juneteenth but also use it as a reminder – to us and especially our white counterparts – of the work left to be done to dismantle white supremacy in all of its forms.
Planned Parenthood South Atlantic launched our Black Organizing Program last year to develop a strong, integrated volunteer infrastructure among Black communities. This work is especially important in the South, where health disparities are far higher than the national average. We believe that if we support and uplift the political and social power of Black communities through advocacy and organizing, education, and resource distribution, we will build an equitable, sustainable and inclusive movement that centers those who are most impacted, protects and expands avenues for access to care, and attains reproductive freedom for all.
This week, the Black Organizing Program hosted an event to commemorate the Black Wall Streets that once prospered in the Carolinas, and support Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs in North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia.
Since the early part of the 1900s, Black-owned businesses, banks, places of worship, schools, newspapers, and homes thrived in key communities across the country, and especially in the South. But these Black Wall Streets, including in North Carolina and South Carolina, endured decades of systemic racism, violent oppression, gentrification, and neighborhood destabilization. For instance, in 1898, a violent white mob in Wilmington, N.C. killed dozens of Black people, burned a newspaper office to the ground, and overthrew the local government — replacing elected officials with white supremacists. And in May 1921, Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Greenwood District, one of the most famous Black Wall Streets, was brutally destroyed by a violent white mob, killing hundreds of people and wiping out years of Black success. This erosion of Black communities and their legacy has led to ever-widening economic disparities between white and Black families that are still present today.
In the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others, and national protests over police brutality, we know that deep-seated racism and violence have not subsided. and there is so much more work left to be done.
Juneteenth celebrations are joyous, reflective, restful, and communal occasions to remember Black Americans’ history and recognize the achievement, excellence, and perseverance of Black people, whether enslaved or free. And it’s also an opportunity to educate people on Black Americans’ continued fight for justice and equity and engage them in actions that support Black communities and organizations working to realize these goals.
And so let’s use this day to renew our commitment to confronting racism — specifically anti-Black racism — within the health care system and throughout our nation. Below is a list of resources to further your education and to bring back to your families, friends, and communities.
- The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth (National Museum of African American History & Culture)
- Life after Slavery for African Americans (Khan Academy)
- 1619 Project (New York Times Magazine)
- Ten Little Known Black History Facts (PBS)
- Antiracism Resources
- Racial Equity Tools
- 103 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice
- How the Non-Black Latinx Community Can Demand Racial Justice
- Resources for Having Conversations with Spanish-speaking folks about Anti-Blackness
- Asian American Racial Justice Toolkit
- MuslimARC’s toolkit for non-Black Muslims about #BlackLivesMatter, systemic anti-Black racism
- Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex from Indigenous Action