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Juneteenth and the McCormack Baron Companies

June 19, 2020 | McCormack Baron Salazar

To the Employees of McCormack Baron –

Annually, June 19th represents Juneteenth, a historic day in our nation’s history, a celebration of black history, freedom, resistance, and contribution to the struggle for justice and equality in the United States. Although the Emancipation Proclamation declared slaves legally free in January 1863, it took years before news traveled to all parts of the country and it was hard to enforce in some states and regions, where few union troops were present. As a result, slaves continued to be held in bondage as late as 1865, when over a quarter million slaves remained in Texas alone. However, on June 19, 1865, the Union army arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce the Civil War had ended, and all enslaved people were free. It was delayed but welcomed news, closing a most shameful chapter in human history. This day was celebrated on the ports and island of Galveston, and then throughout Texas and beyond. Learn more about Juneteenth here.

It is significant that the African American community has adopted as the day of celebration the moment when all slaves were actually free rather than the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, which made freedom possible. This is a collective celebration. Indeed, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “No one is free until we are all free.” That prioritization of communal justice continues in the Black Lives Matter movement today.

Juneteenth has become an annual tradition within the black community to celebrate the long struggle toward freedom. It is a day to not only reflect on our past but to focus on present and future efforts to support and demand justice, target and eliminate systemic girders of racism, and join collective actions that support liberation, resilience, and fortitude for the communities in which we work and that we support. The McCormack Baron Companies remain dedicated to investing in places and people.  Towards furthering MOSAIC, our mission and our vision, we are announcing the following measurable actions.

Today, on behalf of the McCormack Baron Companies, I am committing us to measurable action:

  • To convene a committee of diverse employees from all levels of the company to recommend actions to become a more equitable, inclusive and diverse company in all aspects and stages of the work we do. This committee will analyze our current practices including hiring and retention, training, business management practices, community relations, and communications to ensure that they are anti-racist and equitable. This committee will produce a report with actionable steps for the company to take.
  • To commit to creating a resource and communication portal for employees across McCormack Baron Companies to exchange and share information for employees to take their own steps to address racism and inequities.
  • To commit to providing mandatory training for all employees on implicit bias, the systemic and endemic nature of racism.
  • To commit to using the power and political capital held by the companies and our employees to push for national and local changes to policies - to hold police accountable, to encourage community-based violence prevention strategies, to change the unjust criminal justice system, and to remove barriers to stable, good housing, wealth creation, economic development, quality education, and other opportunities. This includes using our resources and partnerships to conduct a thorough inquiry into what other policies may limit the ability for our residents, our employees, and our communities to thrive.
  • To commit to ensuring that we are a company that is accountable to those who are currently or will be future residents in our communities. This means that we are accountable throughout the development process, from master planning through construction, and continue to be accountable during operations of all the properties we manage.

Company leadership realizes that none of this work can be done without every one of our staff members. So, perhaps most importantly, McCormack Baron leaders and executives commit to being accountable to every McCormack Baron employee. 

Most important, we commit to continuing to listen and learn how we as a company, as a community, and as individuals within this organization can do better.

Over the past five decades, our companies and people have performed incredibly hard work to achieve remarkable successes throughout this country. That said, we continue to confront harsh realities. Progress has been slow, and sometimes we find ourselves pushed backwards. The path ahead will be even more difficult. But I have faith that, together, we can change the system that holds some people back. We can make a difference and we can fulfil our vision that all people are able to live in sustainable, equitable, and opportunity rich communities.

As we reflect on the importance of Juneteenth, the importance of Civil Rights, the importance of Black Lives Matter, let’s take a moment to consider what we can do collectively and individually in our respective communities to support diversity, equity, and inclusion. As eloquently said by former President Barack Obama marking Juneteenth 2016, “[this] is a time to recommit ourselves to the work that remains undone. We remember that even in the darkest hours, there is cause to hope for tomorrow’s light.”  Please join Richard, Tony and me as we continue our important work!

Vincent R. Bennett

President, McCormack Baron Salazar, Inc.

St. Louis, MO

June 19th, 2020