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Posted on June 22, 2021 at 8:37 AM by Melinda Mayo
This past weekend Roanoke was the location of two seemingly unrelated events, yet both exemplified the challenges present in our community alongside the opportunities. Both were aspirational and inspirational.
Hundreds gathered Saturday to celebrate Juneteenth—newly recognized as a Federal holiday—commemorating the date when enslaved people in Texas learned of their freedom, nearly two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Celebrated since 1866, the day is also known as Jubilee Day, Emancipation Day, and Black Independence Day. The day was one of celebration with inspirational speeches, dancing, musical performances, and communal fellowship. The day was also one of remembering the history of enslavement in our Nation and, locally, racist practices such as urban renewal and redlining that limited the opportunities for people of color in our community. Much was said about the hard work that remains in achieving equity in our community. It was indeed a day to be inspired, as well as one that offered much to aspire toward.
Refugees and Immigrants
Saturday also saw a celebration of World Refugee Day—formally recognized on June 20 downtown at the Main Library. The celebration included acknowledgment of the refugees and immigrants who recently became American citizens. Attendees were reminded that we are a Nation of ideals and values, open to all from anywhere in the world. And yet, we know immigrants to our Country and City face discrimination and exploitation. Did you realize that 35% of the region’s recent population growth can be attributed to immigrants, and that pre-pandemic immigrant households earned more than $303 million (the equivalent of the City’s entire budget), paying more than $23 million in State and local taxes? Nearly 50% of immigrants in the region are homeowners, with property values exceeding half a billion dollars.
The fact is that our Nation and our community are better and stronger each time an immigrant raises their hand and take an oath to support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States—it always has been. It was inspirational to see these individuals and their families who have traveled from throughout the world to seek better fortune in America. It was also a reminder of the work we must do to ensure they feel (and indeed are) welcome here in our community.
Two remarkable events both rooted in the history of our Nation and community! Let’s continue to work together to aspire to what we need to be, to match the inspiration both of these events offered.
-- Bob Cowell
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