A Message from Omar: What Juneteenth Means to Me
New Door Community,
Juneteenth celebrations have been longstanding traditions in many communities across the country. Growing up in San Francisco, the Juneteenth Celebration at Hamilton Park was always an event my friends and I looked forward to. While it has been encouraging to see Juneteenth finally recognized as an essential part of American history, the harsh reality is that it took multiple tragedies to force the country to collectively pause and recognize the parts of the Black experience in America that are not so sentimental.
This time last year, America appeared ready to join the Black community and collectively acknowledge the broken systems actively failing and harming people of color- systems with roots as deep as America’s inception. As we were honoring the sacrifice, perseverance, and liberation that Juneteenth represents, Black communities across the nation were mourning the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and countless others at hands of law enforcement.
The trauma and heartbreak we collectively experienced in the last year has brought greater awareness to the structures that need to be dismantled before America is a place where all young people can thrive. Black youth make up nearly half of New Door participants, and for them, joining the workforce typically means confronting conscious and unconscious biases, negative perceptions, and needing to code-switch so that they can assimilate to dominant white-culture norms. Not to mention a lack of access to networks and connections that can give them exposure and access to career paths.
The fact that I’m a black CEO isn’t a silver bullet for institutional racism, and New Door has spent much of the last year looking at systemic inequities within our own organization. Building upon the work we’d already been doing, New Door joined the Promise 54 DEI Accelerator 2021 Cohort, which equips organizations with the tools, resources, and understanding to harness the power of empathy and data to advance progress on DEI. We look forward to implementing our learnings in real-time while working in concert with other efforts to dismantle white supremacy and build a just, safe, world, full of bright futures for all Bay Area youth.
In the same way that Breonna Taylor’s family is still waiting for accountability for what happened to her, it’s important to remember that Juneteenth commemorates the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to inform enslaved blacks that they were free- a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
As we enter a post-COVID world, we must stop the repetition of history and ensure that justice and equity are no longer delayed. As a member of our community, thank you for your solidarity and support of our mission.
CEO, New Door Ventures