Juneteenth, or Freedom Day, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States following the surrender of General Robert E. Lee in 1865. Since that day, each year Black communities have commemorated that fateful day by uniting in celebration. Over the last year, however, following the murders of George Floyd and many others, Juneteenth has taken on a new meaning.
As a person of color who has worked in Corporate America and gone on to start my own company, Juneteenth is a time for me to reflect not only on the progress that has been made, but also focus on the steps we need to take to give Black and other minority founders the same opportunities as our non-minority counterparts.
As I write, the current demonstrations against police violence have produced one good slogan: Defund the Police. Is this something we really want to do? About 64% of Americans own houses. When we need police help and call them, do we want them to not come because of a lack of personnel, equipment, or communications? Slogans don’t make good public policy, and are rarely efficacious. They can rile people up in call and response.
The alternative to policing is anarchy and chaos. As a people, we are not good at self-regulation. Do we want to surrender to vigilantes, private security forces, bodyguards, high walls, high noon, “stand your ground,” and Second Amendment advocates who claim to be standing between us and tyranny but who are advocates for their liberty and freedom only? I can imagine classic strategic planning for police, with substantial community input, to decide what to prioritize, what to stop doing, and what to do more of. And classic organizational development, to deal with the organizational culture problem obviously present in too many police departments of the supervisory chain of command losing control of the blue suits, or never establishing control over them in the first place. And classic human resources efforts, to hire the right people—ones without authoritarian traits, high control needs, or racism, and with cultural competency and thoughtful, Constitutionally based responses.
His name is Stan Maclin. He lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia, having moved there 20 years ago. He is the founder and curator of the Harriet Tubman Cultural Center in that city.
It should come as no surprise then that Maclin’s Center has garnered national attention and many phone calls ignited by the recently released movie “Harriett,” the story of Harriett Tubman who single handedly made many forays deep into the south to free slaves.
When asked why he started the Center, in words that undoubtedly flowed from his mouth hundreds of times over the years, Maclin said that he wanted to open a place where African Americans can learn about their history, identity, and culture. He wanted to be able the educate future generations so that history does not repeat itself.