June is a month that elevates traditionally marginalized communities through the celebration of both Pride Month and Juneteenth. It is an especially meaningful time to reinforce that URI welcomes everyone through our open access model of care and a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) that is that imbedded in our mission. It is particularly important to reflect on these issues as our country continues to be impacted by racism, prejudice, and violence.
When URI was founded in Brooklyn, NY in 1980, the management team at the time recognized the unmet needs of a community faced with domestic violence and took meaningful action. Now, 42 years later, URI continues to build upon this legacy, expanding in our size and impact, including services to those experiencing homelessness and in the wide diversity of both our staff and clients.
During Pride Month, I am especially proud that URI’s doors are open to everyone. We honor the right of all people to be respected, valued, and safe, and we deliver quality, compassionate, trauma-informed care to every client in a manner that acknowledges and celebrate the intersecting factors of each individual’s identity, including gender and sexual orientation. Our leadership and staff include members of the LGBTQ community who are driving positive impact within URI and across our city and our society. While the roots of Pride Month stretch back to the Stonewall Riots of 1969 in New York City, it took until 2000 for June to be officially named “Gay and Lesbian Pride Month,” demonstrating the need to stay the course and stay vigilant.
June also brings the newest federal holidays: Juneteenth, known as Black Independence Day, Jubilee Day, or Emancipation Day. As a historically Black and Brown led organization reflecting the community we serve, this new holiday deeply resonates with URI. I find there are two striking features in Juneteenth: First, that it recognizes the attempt by those in power to deny enslaved Black men, women, and children their right to freedom by withholding news of the Emancipation Proclamation. Second, Juneteenth was first commemorated in 1865, but it only became a federal holiday in 2021 – a very long time to wait. As the saying goes, “the wheels of justice turn slowly,” and I would add that it takes a dedication and hard work to ensure those wheels continue to turn.
There is one more attribute that links Pride Month and Juneteenth. In both cases, the historically marginalized populations stood up, demanded recognition, and created a movement. They took a history of violence and prejudice and turned it into pride and jubilation. URI is proud to be a member of this community.
Nathaniel M. Fields
Urban Resource Institute