By Doni Tadesse and Aliyah Shaheed,
Southern California and Northern California Organizers
Today we celebrate and reflect.
We celebrate the resilience, strength and triumph of Black folks in the face of profound adversity. We reflect on the progress we have made as well as all of the work we have to do to combat anti-Blackness and white supremacy in this country. Considered the longest-running holiday in Black communities, particularly in Texas, Juneteenth stands as a complex celebration of resilience and a sobering reminder of this country’s ugly history.
Also called Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States.
For Rise Economy, Juneteenth is not only a reminder of the progress made in the fight for civil rights but also the serious challenges that persist, namely the enduring impact of redlining. Redlining has kept Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, Black folks in particular, from building generational wealth and economic resilience. For example, in 2019 an average white family had about $184,000 in family wealth, while an average Latine/x family had $38,000 and an average Black family had just $23,000, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Our bank accountability work seeks to rectify this. Since 2020, we have secured $100 billion in community benefits agreements that will help expand access to affordable housing, small business ownership and other resources that build community wealth.
That is why we co-sponsored bills like AB 919 (Kalra) this year, also known as the Stable Homes Act, which sought to stabilize communities and get homes out of the hands of profit-driven corporate landlords and give working-class families and BIPOC communities a real opportunity to build generational wealth through homeownership.
Community/Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (COPA/TOPA) policies like AB 919 can bring significant benefits to BIPOC communities by empowering tenants, preserving scarce affordable housing and supporting community stewardship of housing and other resources. Several cities, including Washington D.C. and San Francisco, have adopted COPA/TOPA policies and many more are actively pursuing similar local ordinances. In Washington, DC, home to the nation’s oldest and most comprehensive TOPA program, tenants organized to preserve close to 1,400 units between 2015 and 2018 alone.
In addition to our policy work, just this month we completed our third annual Racial and Economy Justice Cohort, a forward-looking training program meant to help undo the unequal distribution of wealth in California and address the power structures that perpetuate structural racism and inequity. This year’s cohort focused primarily on the intersections of housing justice and racial justice, diving into topics such as redlining, systemic disinvestment of BIPOC communities, the genocide and forced displacement of Indigenous Americans, and the proliferation of corporate ownership of housing following the Great Recession. In addition to developing their understanding of this work’s historical context, cohort members were trained on anti-racist organizing and internal management practices that they will be able to apply directly to their own racial justice work.
At a time when Black Californians experience disproportionately higher rates of poverty, financial exclusion, housing insecurity and homelessness we must remain steadfast in our commitment to fighting anti-Blackness and white supremacy in all their forms.