Martin Luther King said in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on December 11, 1964:
“The richer we have become materially, the poorer we become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.”
Martin Luther King is often quoted, but the death of George Floyd at the hands of police is a recent milestone in thinking about where the country stands in confronting its racist history.
Last year, CARPLS staff came together and formed the CARPLS Racial Justice Committee (RJC) to identify ways to better educate ourselves, think about the way we provide services and to improve the legal system we work in.
A recent Harvard study by the T.H. Chan School of Public Policy found that Black Americans are three times more likely than white Americans to be killed by police, notes Tarish Morris, CARPLS Paralegal and co-chair for the CARPLS RJC. In addition, Chicagoans in the Black community were found to be over 650% more likely to be killed by police than whites in Chicago. Working in legal aid in one of the country’s most segregated cities gives us more of a sense of responsibility of how we can better address racial injustice in civil and criminal law.
At this time, we observe George Floyd’s memorial, the upcoming Juneteenth Celebration, and a national conversation on racial justice. This article includes some individual RJC staff members’ thoughts.
What does the George Floyd’s death represent for our communities?
“The murder of George Floyd represents a moment in time where the world stood still to watch a tragic moment unfold. His death made the world come together and demand justice. We demanded justice for his death and for all of the people who died due to discrimination.” –Tarish Morris
“It represents a time when the world is acknowledging that racial injustices really do exist. For years I would hear/see people brush off racist remarks or say that there was no such thing as structural racism. The unfortunate death of George Floyd was a sort of eye-opener.” –Kenny Bahena, CARPLS Paralegal
“CARPLS held its own George Floyd Memorial, and it represents CARPLS’ dynamic and continuing commitment to the struggle for equal treatment under the law. It speaks volumes about our organization that we called meetings to address the impact of Mr. Floyd’s murder and how we can better focus our efforts to uplift the community in tangible ways in response to racial injustice. It’s something we felt on an organic, individual level. Just as the past year has shown us that human beings can, will, and must adapt to fluid situations, we as an organization have been inspired to rise to challenges in more focused and innovative ways.” –Naureen Choudhury, CARPLS Staff Attorney
“With the pandemic and filming of incidents, I think the country had to take a moment to think about the legalized lynching of Black Americans we are literally witnessing. The protests across the world in response to George Floyd’s death were probably among the first times that people from across different communities truly came together to demonstrate that this practice can no longer happen—and this acknowledgment is way past due. Now, the question is how do we make the systemic changes that have to happen?” –Tanya Pietrkowski, CARPLS Director of Development
How does Juneteenth connect to the discussions around racial justice?
“Juneteenth is a celebration of the emancipation of slavery in the United States. This holiday allows people to come together to learn about the African American culture and their history. This is a day of reflection about the progress of racial justice for African Americans and the improvements needed for equality.” –Tarish Morris
“I have to be honest that I didn’t grow up learning about Juneteenth. I don’t think that is just because I am from the South—I think as a country we don’t like to confront history that is uncomfortable. It’s interesting to me that in 1990, Illinois was one of the first states in the country to require teaching the Holocaust in public elementary and high schools. The focus on how and where Black history is taught in public schools is more recent in Illinois legislation. The movement to engage people in thinking about structural racism in civil and criminal law also feels more recent and prevalent due to the current circumstances. But, I do believe the wheels of change are starting to turn. I want to be a part of this process.” –Tanya Pietrkowski
“Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of those that were enslaved in the US. It celebrates the end of slavery in the US, and that everyone, regardless of the color of their skin, are equal. Unfortunately, while free from slavery, people of color are still treated as less than, with less respect, with less care for their life, than their white counterparts.” –Kenny Bahena
What is/what should be CARPLS’ role in all of this?
“CARPLS already plays a big role. We assist people, many of which are black or brown, with legal issues that no one else wanted to assist. We try to educate and listen. CARPLS role should be to continue to this, while also continuing to expand our reach.” –Kenny Bahena
“CARPLS should continue to celebrate Juneteenth and provide the staff with opportunities to educate and celebrate the African American culture.” –Tarish Morris
“I think we are pragmatically thinking about what change is needed to truly create racial equity. I want to see who is doing it well and how, and to create more opportunities to engage people in difficult conversations that will confront our history, our current state, and make true change possible where barriers are not due to color, economics and community location.” –Tanya Pietrkowski
Please see a list of events where you can celebrate Juneteenth:
DuSable Museum-60th Anniversary and Grand Reopening
June 19th 10:00 a.m. All day events. Schedule coming soon.
740 E. 56th Pl.
Museum of Science and Industry- Black Creativity Family Day
Museum Entry is free on June 19.
Juneteenth Celebration of Freedom!
Fri, Jun 18, 3 PM – Sun, Jun 20, 7 PM
Douglass Park Golf Course, 1401 S Sacramento Dr, Chicago, IL
Juneteenth Citywide Caravan/ Parade
Friday, June 18, 2021 2:00 PM 5:00 PM
People line up at New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church at 4301 W Washington Blvd, Chicago, IL 60624 in West Garfield Park, and conclude at A. Phillip Randolph Porter Museum at 10406 S Maryland Ave, Chicago, IL 60628 in Pullman.
Rainbow Races Juneteenth Regatta
SAT JUN 19 2021 AT 12:00 PM UTC-05:00
Jackson Park Yacht Club | Chicago
Join Rainbow Races for a sailing regatta to celebrate and honor Juneteenth! This is a casual sailing regatta meant to celebrate diversity, build friendships, and of course to be fun! Event is open to all sailors and all sailboats 22′ and up. More details available at: https://rainbowracesinc.org/juneteenth-regatta
Juneteenth Cookout @ Bobo Emporium
Sat, Jun 19, 7 – 11 PM
9017 S Cottage Grove Ave, Chicago, IL
2nd Annual Think Tank Foundation Juneteenth BBQ (FREE to the public but donations welcome).
Free family event so bring the kids! Free food, music, games, raffles for black-owned businesses.
Homewood Flossmoor Juneteenth Festival & Virtual Parade
June 19, 11:00 AM – 6:30 PM
Homewood-Flossmoor High School
Juneteenth Journey Through African American History
In The Upper Room Ministry
17601 Wentworth Ave, Lansing, IL
6:30 PM – 10:00 PM
Families are invited to learn about the major eras in African American history through live performances. Learn about the impact of slavery, the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights Movement, Brown vs. Board of Education and Black Lives Matter. Masks are required to enter the building, but can be removed during the Jerk Dinner buffet.
Event Cost: $20, $10 ages 5-12