Reflecting on Freedom

June 19, 2020 | (16) Comments

It was on June 19, 1865 that enslaved African-Americans in Texas gained their freedom. Freedom—what a powerful word—freedom.

Juneteenth is typically a day of celebration with loved ones, get togethers and parades. But this year looks a little different. Between the uncertainty that COVID-19 has created in our daily lives, to the state of grief and unrest that we are experiencing in our strive for justice, I encourage you all to take a moment to pause today and reflect on the freedoms we are blessed to experience—and the freedoms that we need to continue to fight for.

While the Black Lives Matter movement began in 2013, the constant struggle for equality and justice has been something that so many in our community have had to confront every day. This struggle has rightfully demanded front-page news coverage in recent weeks and months, but the need for it is not new. As Will Smith said during an interview in 2016, “Racism isn’t getting worse; it’s getting filmed.”

As I’ve said before, it is difficult to admit that racism is still prevalent in our society, but no matter how hard it is to admit, we must acknowledge this if any change is to be done during our lifetime—and it must be done. The Black Lives Matter movement is here to stay.

Racism and discrimination of any kind must end—in our workplace and in our society. This is a cultural issue and we must take action to affect change. We must be honest with ourselves and with each other to acknowledge where we are and the work we have to do. And then, we must do the work.

When I began as President and CEO at Texas Children’s in 1989, we did not have one African American on our Board of Trustees. Today, our Board is a diverse delegation of gender, race and religion—but we must continue to make progress year after year.

Texas Children’s has an important role to play and we are committed to doing our part. Not just today, not just this month, but for the long term. We have launched initiatives to address issues of racism and diversity, but I want to re-emphasize that this is not a program or a project, this isn’t a matter of creating a department to put gold stars on our letterhead and then move on to the next topic. This work needs to be addressed by each of us every day. It is our collective responsibility to be the change we want to see. We are not perfect but our culture is based on equality, inclusivity, love and compassion, and if we believe in this work, we will continue to improve.

These are difficult things to talk about, but we must talk about them anyways. It is the only way we can move forward. So in honor of Juneteenth, I encourage each of you to pause, reflect on what freedom means to you and the great progress we have made, and recognize how much more work we have to do. I asked you a couple of weeks ago what you have done today to help. Today I ask you, what will you do tomorrow?

16 Responses to “Reflecting on Freedom”

  1. Gena Graham

    Thank you for being a leader on this subject and so much more. Racism is intolerable. Unfortunately, many of us as white people, don’t fathom that just because of the color of our skin we have a foot up. White privilege is prevalent in our country. It is the silent racism. We need to continue to work for an even playing field for all people. I appreciate your passion for diversity and change. Keep it up!

  2. Taylor Reynolds

    So happy to work for an organization that acknowledges issues in the black community and recognizes Juneteenth. Thank you!

    I would also love to be involved with the new diversity initiatives being implemented.

  3. Emily Ybarra Curry

    I have never been more proud to be a Texas Children’s employee and community member. I am thankful we are actually bringing these issues up. I, too, hope that this doesn’t just last for a “season,” but rather continues and is integrated into our deliverables and action plans for the future.

    For example, how can we measure the health of our Black patients and members to ensure they are getting the BEST care? Yes, all of our patients and members should get the best care–but is that what is actually happening? How are we treating those most vulnerable to injustice? What initiative can we take with our patients and our colleagues as well, to make sure we are advocates? We know there is a significant data out there about the poor outcomes that Black Americans face in contrast to White Americans. How do we at Texas Children’s measure up compared to the rest of the country and state?

    While we are “free,” the experience of freedom is different for those who face injustice and systemic racism every day. Thank you for your leadership. I am encouraged and hope this inspires others to enact changes that will make a lasting impact.

  4. Lawanna McNeal

    Mr. Wallace this is a very moving and motivational email. As an African American and having the honor to work at TCH for over 23 years; I am honored to be a part of this amazing team and work under such a compassionate, dedicated and inspiring leader. I have seen the change in TCH and the hard work that has been put into giving each and every person no matter what your race, religion, or gender is and opportunity to grow in the organization. Thank you for recognizing that we must be honest with ourselves and with each other to acknowledge where we are and the work we have to do. And then, we must do the work. We all have a part to play and the main part is to walk in love and respect.

  5. Just as we celebrate the 4th of July, I would like to see Juneteenth be recognized as an institutional holiday, as a visible commitment to anti-racism work and to allow those who recognize Juneteenth as their Independence Day to celebrate away from work.

  6. Veronika Javor

    I am very proud to work for an organization that acknowledges the deeply rooted systemic racism in this country and is taking actionable steps to be part of the change.

  7. Wes Moulden

    At our house I shared what has been going on over the past two weeks at work with my two daughters. As I asked my new high school graduate if she felt like she had contributed to efforts for social justice and equality and her reply was that she felt like it wasn’t her place to say anything.

    I was astounded and shared that it is everyone’s place and responsibility. So we had a great talk about what it really means when someone stands by idly while injustice on any scale occurs.

    It was a real eye opener about the opportunity we have with our children to make a real difference for the future and the now simultaneously. So we’ve decided to sit down and talk about what we are seeing in the news, and share our experiences and thoughts with each other on a weekly basis with the goal being to encourage each other to speak up and take action whenever and wherever we see or hear any form of injustices or inequality.

  8. Anna Mateja

    I am thankful for your leadership and your call to action. Past decades have suppressed an important conversation, allowing an ugly truth to lay hidden for some and yet be an unyielding, ever-present reality for many. May we find the courage to bring forth true change and unity in this awakening.

  9. Nadene Dukes

    I was blessed to be a nursing leader when Mr. Wallace became President and CEO at Texas Children’s Hospital. We knew we had found someone quite special when Mr. Wallace arrived but WOW – what a genuine humanitarian and authentic leader we would come to admire and respect throughout his tenure! I am always appreciative of Mr. Wallace’s uplifting messages to the organization. Light will always overcome darkness and love will always overrule hate. In the end, we will all stand accountable for our actions or inaction. Thank you, Mr. Wallace for modeling the way.

    Throughout generations, countless forefathers believed in a hopeful future but died in the faith without reaping the fruits of their labor – civil rights and justice for all. Yet even today, in the midst of unthinkable social injustices to African Americans, I still believe we shall walk hand-in-hand and we shall overcome some day…

    Let us likewise model the way.

  10. Alma Martinez

    Texas Children’s is by far the BEST PLACE TO WORK!!! Thank you Mr. Wallace for ALWAYS being VOCAL and OPEN with us! I have worked at TCH for 27.5 years and could not fathom working anywhere else. We must never feel complacent and stay quiet – THANK YOU!

  11. Katrina

    Thank you for being a great leader! Thank you for being vocal on the issues! Within our community and work. Praying this does not last for a season and all races help us keep fighting racism. It’s very sad for any person to think racism is okay. We have been set back 20 years seems like versus ahead. You are True leader! I can’t Thank you enough, Mr. Wallace!

  12. I met you and your wife in the Fall of 2019. My co-worker and I engaged in conversation with you on June 12, 2020 in your backyard. That’s when we learned you’ve been President and CEO of Texas Children’s Hospital for 31 years and my co-work voiced his ‘good feeling’ about you and your wife. During our conversation, you mentioned you were going to write a blog dealing with racism. A few days after our conversation, my co-worker and I saw you and your wife when you mentioned you both were heading to the Black Lives Matter protest in the Texas Medical Center. My co-worker and I were impressed. Even we haven’t participated in the BLM protests yet.

    Now I’m reading this blog you said you were going to write and I discern your conviction on equality matches what we both saw within you and your wife.

    I am absolutely positive, the spirit of, ‘first, do no harm’, and I add, no harm to no one, regardless of race or religion, is epitomized in you and your wife, Mr. Wallace. Who better to lead such a great institution as Texas Children’s Hospital than you?

  13. Angela Banks

    I am so grateful to God for opening up a spot for me to be apart of TCH under the leadership of one AMAZING man. Thank you Mr. Wallace for seeing us and speaking out on the injustice in blacks are face with daily. Thank you to all of my coworkers who also have spoken up and is in this fight with us. Mr. Wallace ask again that I be apart of what you are putting together for our TCH family to help understand what it is to black in America in 2020 and what it is to be a black employee of TCH under the leadership of our leaders and the you sir, Mr. Mark Wallace. I am grateful and thankful for your kindness.

  14. Samira Saedi

    As an immigrant who has left her country due to the constant struggle for equality and justice and has been calling Texas home for last 11 years, it is an honor to work for a organization that not only invites us to reflect on freedom on these special days but also empowers us to be the change we want to see in the world in our day to day work. Thanks for your inspirational leadership Mr.Wallace.

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