Agents of Our Own Liberation

As we collectively celebrate new promises made for changes in policing and racist corporate practices, and the toppling of relics of oppressive histories, we do so knowing that the struggles continue until freedom is real in the lives of millions. Uprisings will continue in the streets and the work of making real, anti-racist democracy begins again each day, in every corner of this country.

For years I struggled to find much that’s celebratory about Juneteenth, I was so focused on the profound injustice of the delayed news to Black folks in Texas that slavery was illegal. It meant enslaved people stayed in bondage months after the end of the Civil War and two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

But with a moment’s pause, the wisdom is clear. We do not celebrate liberation when the promise is made, but when all of us truly become free. Consistent with Audre Lorde’s teaching: “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” Our ancestors celebrated justice – even if it was delayed – because they had the strength and resilience to celebrate the free life they had left and for their collective children who would be born free. This celebration is forever twinned with mourning for those who never saw that day – June 19th, 1865. We continue to celebrate June 19th today in their name.

Black folks are the agents of our own liberation. What better way for us to celebrate this moment than centering the voices of some Black lawyers, legal workers, organizers and planners at TakeRoot.

TakeRoot Justice’s work advances Black liberation…..

…by centering Black people’s experiences within a myriad of institutions. As a legal worker focusing on immigrants’ rights and abolition of prisons and police, I know that Black people are disproportionately deported from the US after being forced to migrate because of neo-imperialism, targeted by law enforcement agencies, prevented from building generational wealth, and exploited. For our clients, their experiences of anti-Blackness are compounded with xenophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, ableism and other axes of oppression. Uplifting all Black lives is the only way we can truly abolish ICE and police, open borders, and shift society to value people and the environment over profit. To create a world where Black people can truly rest.
– Aline Gue, Immigrants’ Rights

…because supporting the growth of cooperative and democratic economies goes hand-in-hand with the abolition of violent and anti-Black institutions. My work is part of a legacy of both cooperative and self-governance practices integral to the long struggle for Black liberation in America since before emancipation. The world that my work pushes for is one where ALL Black people, including Black trans folks, women, girls, femmes, gender non-conforming folks, migrants, folks with disabilities and returning citizens, among others, and, by default, so many other marginalized groups, experience a sense of belonging in the absence of so much of the suffering that we see every day on our streets, on our subways and on our TVs.
– Julian Hill, Capacity Building

…in personal and communal spaces. First, as a Brooklyn-born black activist and housing justice lawyer, my practice nurtures and claims my own power in the very community where I grew up and now serve. Second, I am channeling my individual expertise and power into my practice, where my primary tenet is that affordable, decent housing is a human right, particularly in Black and brown communities in New York City. In my work, I center the humanity and dignity of Black people who, like myself, have all too often been devalued by systemic racism. The COVID-19 pandemic is the latest event to expose yet simultaneously entrench the centuries-old racial and socio-economic disparities in our society, especially laying bare the affordable housing crisis in the United States.  Building by building, court case by court case, I am working with tenant advocates to build power and housing security at home, within their boroughs, and across the city.
– Addrana Montgomery, Housing Rights

…because fighting the interlocking systems of oppression that leech wealth from hard-working BIPOC communities is part of creating a sustainable communities capable of fighting against predatory lending and other financial systems of oppression (such as commercial bail) and supporting the economic growth and power of BIPOC. My professional coaching work supports the leadership development of BIPOC leaders, especially women and others whose identities are marginalized in decision spaces that have impact on BIPOC communities.
– Nasoan Sheftel-Gomes, Consumer Justice

…because supporting low-income, BIPOC populations’ right to the city via affordable housing and environmental justice is an essential component to protecting public safety, health and welfare. As a community planner, I aim to use my professional skills to bridge the gap that historical urbanist practices have widened when it comes to Black stakeholders. By enabling community stakeholders to emancipate themselves from discrimination.
– Sophonie Milande Joseph, Equitable Neighborhoods

Our work for racial justice continues not just on Juneteenth but everyday and always. There are many ways to join our work; as volunteers, pro bono attorneys, grassroots partners or supporters. Please reach out to find out how you can get involved.

In solidarity,
Elizabeth and the Team at TakeRoot Justice