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Looking Back at SF 2024 Juneteenth Parade

For African Americans, Juneteenth is a traditional celebration marking the beginning of freedom for Black Americans. While we celebrate with parades and festivities, it is essential to remember that this day of joy was once an unimaginable dream for many. During slavery, countless lives were lost, and women and children faced severe abuse. Human life was forced into labor, enduring unimaginable hardships. Juneteenth has been a federal holiday for three years now. At GLIDE, where we champion radical inclusivity, we celebrate this important day each year with our staff, clients, and community.

This year was no exception. GLIDE proudly participated in San Francisco’s annual Juneteenth Parade Celebration on Saturday, June 8th, 2024. Organized by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, starting at 10 AM at Market and Spear Street, the streets were filled with people carrying signs of historical Black figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Thurgood Marshall, and Harriet Tubman. Luxurious cars lined up, ready to cruise through the parade. Political figures, including Assemblymember Matt Haney and Mayor London Breed, joined the community in this lively and meaningful celebration.

GLIDE had its float, but this year, we did something different. We removed our loudspeaker, and instead, Regina Wells, our Senior Manager of Training and Development for the Center for Social Justice, led us in singing traditional African American songs. We followed her lead, singing and clapping, captivating the parade’s audience. GLIDE staff members rode on the float while others marched in the streets, dancing to the music and waving to the crowd. We were joined by Board of Supervisor Dean Preston, who marched with GLIDE to celebrate this historic day. The theme of the entire parade was the celebration of freedom, and as Regina Wells stated, “We honor our ancestors; their pain and suffering are why we are here today. Their spirit lives on within each one of us.”

Young Black children heard these powerful words in the crowd, embodying the future and reinforcing the importance of the Black community striving to inspire and uplift. As they listened, they saw themselves as the torchbearers of a legacy, understanding the responsibility to honor the past while forging a brighter path forward.

The parade continued to the Civic Center, where a concert celebrated Juneteenth. Our GLIDE ensemble, led by Vernon Bush, took center stage and captivated the crowd with their performance. They sang the mighty “Glory” song, resonating through the venue and drawing everyone in. The music created an atmosphere of unity and celebration, highlighting the day’s spirit. While we celebrate, we recognize that there is still work to be done for the true freedom of African Americans.

Despite the progress marked by Juneteenth, African Americans continue to face significant challenges within the criminal justice system. African Americans make up about 13% of the U.S. population but represent 37% of the prison population, reflecting a severe overrepresentation. Black Americans are imprisoned at a rate five times higher than White Americans, with Black men facing imprisonment rates 5.5 times higher than their White counterparts. These disparities highlight the ongoing systemic inequalities that must be addressed to achieve true justice and equality​.

These disparities highlight ongoing systemic inequalities. At GLIDE, we combat these injustices through our Legal Aid Clinic, providing crucial support and resources, legal representation, and advocacy. We also offer comprehensive reentry services, including job training, housing assistance, and counseling, to help former inmates rebuild their lives and reduce recidivism. We work towards a more equitable future by addressing immediate legal needs and supporting re-entry.

Our Legal Aid Clinic and reentry services are vital to GLIDE’s mission to uplift and empower all individuals, ensuring access to justice and the opportunity to thrive. We commit to addressing the persisting systemic injustices as we celebrate Juneteenth and its progress.