This month, our country celebrates its 246th birthday, and the day it became a sovereign nation, free from Great Britain’s rule. The day our nation had authority over its own decisions, celebrations, and future.
The principles that underpin the Declaration of Independence – that all are created equal and are endowed with the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—have made the United States a beacon of hope for so long for many around the world who flee persecution from their own governments based on their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or their political opinions. We are a nation of immigrants, each generation, representing different waves seeking freedom, and the promises of equal rights and equal opportunities as a republic with a democratic process that ensures your voice is heard without fear of reprisal.
Inherent in a democracy is the responsibility of citizens to ensure accountability that the government is living up to its promises. We know that everyone’s rights are at risk when one person’s rights are threatened. At LSSNCA, we believe that in addition to being a civic duty, our moral responsibility as people of faith, and our commitment to our value of the inherent dignity of all humans drives us to tirelessly work to advance the rights and protections for those individuals who are not able to access the same opportunities as the majority, whose voices often go unheard, and perspectives are often left out of policy decisions.
For the second year in a row, LSSNCA observed Juneteenth, the day that the last enslaved Black Americans in Texas were freed, more than two years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. It was a day of celebrating freedom, of remembrance of the millions of slaves on whose backs this country was built, and a reminder that the promise of freedom does not on its own confer freedom.
At LSSNCA, it’s our responsibility to our communities and to those we serve to provide equitable and culturally responsive services, access to systems and opportunities to help those we serve reach their fullest potential, and to advocate for just and humane policies and programs. This looks like hosting pro se status filing clinics throughout the summer for Afghan clients who need to apply for asylum within the next few months to ensure they have protections in the United States in lieu of an Afghan Adjustment Act passing. This also looks like empowering an abuse survivor who sought asylum and received mental health support from LSSNCA’s CARE for Newcomers program to cope with her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Our CARE team also educated her on human trafficking indicators, and she was able to help a friend who was in a similar situation by informing her of her rights and how to seek assistance. And finally, this looks like these individuals and others joining our community as we work together to ensure those who face these plights next perhaps have an easier and safer time navigating the system, accessing benefits and services, and creating an equitable, just, safe, and happy life for their families.
A commitment to equity and justice also requires us to recognize that each of us has our own biases, whether conscious or unconscious, based on our unique lived experiences, cultural heritage, and messages we learned from our families, faith communities, and the community at large. It looks like individual and introspective work of identifying how these biases shape our world view, how we interact with one another, and to committing as individuals and as an organization to learning about other’s experiences that are different than our own and unlearning biases and stereotypes that perpetuate racism, discrimination, and oppression.
We don’t always get it right, but we are always committed to learning, growing, and doing better. We know it takes a community to do the work of welcome, and we’re so grateful for this community for joining alongside us to ensure those we serve are receiving quality and equitable services and that we are living true to the values we all hold so dear in our work of service and advancing justice.