On freedom: Juneteenth and Social Justice

Freedom

Friend -

Yesterday was Juneteenth, a day that marks the abolition of slavery in Texas and throughout the Confederate South. I wasn't feeling well and Roxy was out for much of the day, so it gave me time to reflect.

There is a quote that's been running through my mind since the Orlando massacre on our LGBTQ and Latino/a brothers and sisters. It's attributed to the social justice advocate and poet Emma Lazarus and was later made famous by Dr. King. 

"Until we are all free, we none of us are free."

In an America where a racist, bigoted charlatan is a top contender for the highest office in the land, I worry what that says about us as a country. 

Lazarus is most famous for her poetry - it is her words that are on the pedestal at the Statue of Liberty. Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. 

Freedom.

Lately, this country has been in a serious conversation about freedom. Freedoms like holding your partner's hand without fear of being targeted for a hate crime. Freedoms like driving your car without dying at the hands of a police officer. Freedoms like moving through life without fear of sexual assault.

I wanted to share a few things I think the General Assembly needs to focus on in the next session - concrete steps to move us towards a freer, safer, more equitable and just Colorado. 

Abolishing the death penalty. The only three people on Death Row in Colorado are black men. Not only should we not kill people in the name of good government, but you cannot separate the rampant racism in our criminal justice system from the death penalty. It is long overdue that we abolish it.

Equity in our school system. We need to repeal TABOR and start funding our schools adequately - but TABOR is not an excuse for the school-to-prison pipeline that we have grown accustomed to. Our urban districts are more segregated than ever. So instead of creating more charters, magnet schools, and special schools for a handful of kids, Democrats should be demanding that we put a good public school in every neighborhood.

Remembering the "T" in LGBTQ. I, too, celebrated when we achieved marriage equality, but there's more to do. Banning abusive "conversion therapy" should be a top priority, and we should continue the efforts from previous sessions. 

We must also continue to be proactive in protecting transgender rights - such as making it easier to correct your birth certificate and ensuring our anti-bullying laws are being adequately enforced in our schools. There are around twenty anti-transgender bills being debated nationwide. If we don't want to join that chorus, we must raise up our voices loudly and say, No - that's not us!

Demanding a culturally-responsive education. Efforts led by Rep. Joe Salazar to create a statewide panel to evaluate our curricula on this issue failed last year - and that is nothing less than maddening.

Let's elevate Cesar Chavez day over "Columbus Day". An ethnocentric history classroom is a disservice to our students, our teachers, and our collective moral conscious. Our history books and our exams should reflect the diversity of our history - and not just during one month or a few holidays a year, but every day.

These are just a few thoughts I had on my mind. As a white male who married his high school sweetheart four decades ago, I know I am not always in the best position to be speaking authoritatively on these issues. I still have a lot to learn, and there are some things I will never truly understand. 

But I'd like to hear from you. What can we do in Colorado to advance social justice? Drop me an email at jeff@jeffhart.org and share your thoughts.

In Solidarity,


Jeff


P.S. If you want to join us at the Pride parade today, we are meeting in the yellow section at the corner of 9th and Humboldt at 8:15am. Call my cell at(303) 907-4664 if you need anything.


Lift Every Voice and Sing
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.