Updated: Jul 9
A Message from Dr. Bobby William Austin
President of Neighborhood Associates
We mark this Juneteenth amid nationwide protests over police killings of people of color and a growing sense by an overwhelming majority of citizens that our country has reached a fundamental turning point in its history.
All over America, protests have erupted, born of outrage over ongoing police violence and systematic racism. Many communities in the Neighborhood Associates Corporation (NAC) network are in cities that have seen terrible damage to public space and to human life. In Louisville, Breonna Taylor, an emergency medical technician, and David McAtee, a restaurateur and neighborhood legend, lost their lives, lives rich in concrete accomplishment and untold possibility.
Here, at this moment of great upheaval and, hopefully, of change, let us pause to reflect not only on lives taken but on lives lived. The stories of the lives of Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, George Floyd, and so many, many others, matter. These stories must be told. And they must resonate within a new American story of justice and community.
NAC has always celebrated the diversity of generations, races, local cultural practices, and neighborhood identities in the communities we serve from coast to coast. Cultures of trust, listening, respect, civility, and engagement certainly help form stable traditions within families and intimate circles, but these cultures must extend to our neighbors — indeed, to all with whom we share public space and the responsibilities of civic belonging. Through cultural leadership and Public Kinship, we prioritize assisting neighbors to lift up neighbors in sharing knowledge and leading their community.
This year especially, Juneteenth is an occasion to celebrate freedom and to rededicate ourselves to the proposition that freedom is born not merely in acts of legislation but in acts of imagination. The freedom to be, to live, to dream and reach, to tell the stories of ourselves and our family and neighbors as we wish to tell them, and to partake of all opportunities for self-making — these are the rights that we must fight to preserve and expand for everyone. On June 19, 1865, slaves in Galveston were told a story about something that had already happened to them. Let us work now to make certain that freedom and justice for all is a true story we can tell at every moment, not only after battles are won.
NAC takes this moment to honor our communities, and all those families, neighborhoods, and organizations working on their own ground, in their own ways, and with the expertise born of their own unique experiences, to bring about the change that is so badly, so urgently needed — and needed now. We stand with them on this day, and every day.