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?