Our Board of Directors, in a unanimous decision, voted to recognize Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, as a paid organization holiday beginning this June 2021. As SOS Illinois honors Black History with a series of activities and events beginning this month that will extend throughout the year, this forward-looking move by the Board reaffirms the organization’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
History of Juneteenth
Juneteenth marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed, which came a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Honoring Juneteenth is more complicated than just recognizing the emancipation of slaves in the U.S. It is a day to continue fighting to end racism in the U.S. that prevents equity, creates disproportionate suffering, and harms Black adults and children across the globe. As an organization, SOS Illinois is committed to continued education and advocacy to seek justice, fairness, and lasting freedom.
The SOS Illinois Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Our CEO Tim McCormick shared, “We hope by taking this step, we can intentionally encourage and stimulate conversations on the important collective memory of our nation of the impact and cost of racial slavery in America. In so many ways, such an action creates the necessary space for purposeful conversations not just of the racial past, but also to move forward and discover solidarity among each of us.” Tim continued, “The work of our Racial Justice Committee continues to uplift and support this very notion, that as we care for children in foster care, we too can make meaningful contributions to act on behalf of all of those whose lives are treated with biases and oppression.”
As our Villages and services continue to care for children and families of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, SOS Illinois is making the commitment to do more to provide diversity and inclusion training, workshops, and education for our Foster Parents and staff. As Chicago continues to be a primary focal point in the fight to eradicate racism – especially racism that affects Black children and adults – we recognize that it is important now more than ever to unify as a force aligned with anti-racism efforts in our city and beyond.
“The SOS Illinois Board of Directors knows we play a critical role in creating an organization that prioritizes, supports, and invests in diversity, inclusion, and equity,” shared SOS Illinois Board President Jim Wolfe. “By designating Juneteenth as a holiday for the organization, we establish a precedent that at every level of the organization, we advocate for social justice reforms both within the organization and surrounding communities.”
The SOS Illinois Racial Justice Committee
Established in May of 2020, the SOS Illinois Racial Justice Committee is working to shed light on the systems of inequity that disproportionately impact people of color, socioeconomic deprivation, poor education, and lack of access to resources. The committee has been working behind the scenes to determine the best approach SOS Illinois can take to address the issues the organization faces today, in particular working to reunite families.
“It has been an honor to see the work the Committee has done thus far,” stated SOS Illinois Board Member Tarrah Cooper-Wright. “This group of staff members and Foster Parents are pushing boundaries in order to identify the areas of greatest need within our organization and surrounding communities to address racial bias and intolerance. Even more so, the committee has been courageous in creating opportunities for culture-sharing and respectful conversation without shying away from uncomfortable topics that are the groundwork to real and lasting change.”
The SOS Illinois Racial Justice Committee’s first initiatives have been to develop Black History Month activities aimed at educating staff and children in its care, as well as a larger project focused on developing a parent handbook that will be provided to birth parents, Foster Parents, and parents in communities served through our programs and services. The handbook will address topics such as: educating parents about their legal rights; training on navigating the court system & DCFS; and advising on utilizing community resources.
SOS Illinois believes that issues of diversity, racial inequality, and justice are crucial for all children in foster care. To learn more – read about Why Black History Month Matters for Children in Foster Care.
Championing SOS Illinois’ Young Dreamers
Join us in nurturing the children in our care further toward their aspirations and full potential. Learn more about becoming an SOS Children’s Villages Illinois Dream Maker.