Image by Lewis Zhao

Celebration and Reflection

Juneteenth was finally recognized as a national holiday celebrating the end of the institution of slavery. Independence Day commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the start of the United States.

 

Juneteenth is the newest national holiday and marks the date, June 19, 1865, when enslaved African Americans in Texas learned that the Civil War was over and they were free. Union General Gordon Granger delivered the news two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863.

 

While it is important to celebrate the end of slavery, we should also reflect that outlying slave holding states continued the practice until they were forced to quit. Economic interests were prioritized over humanitarian concerns.

 

Independence Day memorializes the official end of British rule. “No taxation without representation” expressed the desire for self-rule and the feeling of unfairness inherent in colonialism. The ideals of the Declaration of Independence were undermined by financial interests. Thomas Jefferson’s draft included a section denouncing slavery, which was removed by the Continental Congress (The Deleted Passage of the Declaration of Independence). Perhaps less well known is the king’s Proclamation of 1763 “which recognized indigenous ownership of lands west of the Appalachian mountains’ crest and prevented colonists from settling there.” In other words, “[t]he revolution wasn’t only an effort to establish independence from the British—it was also a push to preserve slavery and suppress Native American resistance.” “The Shameful Final Grievance of the Declaration of Independence” by Jeffrey Ostler, The Atlantic, February 8, 2020.

 

Both holidays are about freedom and intended to observe the end of tyranny.  However, the events behind the holidays did not end injustice—and were not intended to.

 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963.

 

 As nonprofits, we work to address inequities and end injustice in our society.  If we do not advocate for our organizations and our communities now, inequity and injustice will continue.

 

New Mexico has already begun to receive its $2.5 billion allotment from the American Rescue Plan Act. We need to advocate with the Governor’s office, our state representatives and senators, county, and municipal elected officials to ensure that nonprofits and the communities they serve get their fair share. It is not sufficient for nonprofits to be included in funding allocated to small businesses. We are different. We should have our own pool of funds with an application that is relevant to nonprofits and the work we do.

 

The National Council of Nonprofits has created a report on the Principles, Recommendations, and Models for Investing Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. Check out the Guiding Principles for Identifying High-Impact Programs to Fund and the Recommendations for Designing Programs with Integrity to prepare talking points for when you write, call or meet with elected officials.  See also “How Governments Can Leverage Federal Funds to Partner with Local Nonprofits” by Kate Elizabeth Queram, Route Fifty, July 2, 2021; and the Role of Nonprofits in New Mexico’s Economy for additional reasons why investing in nonprofits is good for everyone.

 

Nonprofits have been on the frontline serving our communities throughout the pandemic. We know that demand for services will continue. Nonprofits need to be made whole for all they have done over the past fifteen months and we need the resources to continue our work.

 

Nonprofits know their constituents. We need to advocate with and for marginalized communities to insist that ARPA funds prioritize their needs.

 

Now is the time, before all the funds have been allocated.               

 

Nonprofit work requires us to envision a world beyond the status quo. We must work and advocate for a more just and equitable New Mexico for all New Mexicans.

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