[by Chandra Alexandre]
We approach July 4th and the words of our national anthem remind us of our country’s victory for a hard-won freedom. They remind us of what is precious about America. “Land of the free and the home of the brave,” the song declares.
On our 245th Independence Day, I invite us to look at what freedom means to us: for ourselves, for our families, for our community, and for our democracy. I’ll be honest, it’s hard for me to see how this country is grappling with questions of what freedom should look like and who gets to enjoy it. Take voter suppression laws now in 14 states that make it harder to vote, misrepresentation of critical race theory as we strive to heal the deep and lasting wounds of slavery, and the fact that children with one immigrant parent are twice as likely to lack health coverage than children with citizen parents. Take our newfound understanding, thanks to COVID-19, of the true cost of child care, which increased 47% during the pandemic, and of well-being, which decreased more significantly among the poor in March 2020.
When I think about Marin County as this federal holiday approaches, I know that we can take pride in our quality of life, enjoying one of the highest in the country. And I know that we have become more aware collectively of the disproportionate impacts of the pandemic on low-wage workers. Did you know that nationally, the undocumented make up 3 of every 4 essential workers? Immigrants, and our county’s Latino communities in particular, have borne the brunt of economic uncertainty and job loss. Through the past 15 months, disparities have grown from Bolinas to Marin City, Novato to San Rafael. We have, as a county, seen and endured many challenges.
We can point to progress too. Government, community-based organizations, grassroots leaders, and people from all walks of life proved that we can come together to meet urgent needs. We kept people safe and housed, we achieved the highest vaccination rate in the state, and we have begun the sometimes-uncomfortable work needed to lay an equitable foundation for the road ahead. As you consider what a road to economic recovery and a more just and caring community will require, you can learn more about what Community Action Marin helped to achieve through partnerships and a dedicated staff of caring professionals in our agency’s 2020 Annual Report.
Moving forward, I also invite us to look beyond bravery as we ready to meet friends, neighbors, and family in celebration. My invitation this July 4th is for us, each one of us, to embrace courage. While bravery may reside in individuals and unique actions or decisions, courage is in the heart—as the lion reminds us—of who we are. It takes courage to stand up for the ideals of freedom we hold dear. It takes courage to trust, to listen, and to work together across differences for a better future.
For our agency, courage will continue to look like doing the work of providing essential services to keep the economy going. It will mean taking care of our staff on the frontlines of meeting people from crisis to strides for self-sufficiency. It will mean advocacy at the local, state, and federal levels for support to our under-resourced workforce. Finally, it will mean lifting up the voices and sharing the stories of the people we encounter daily in the work of making Marin a place where people can achieve their dreams.
For all of the ways in which you support our next steps, thank you. I wish you a happy, healthy, and safe day of courage and freedom. And if you’re ever in need, we’re in your corner.
Immigrant Families during the Pandemic: On the Frontlines but Left Behind | CLASP
Protecting Undocumented Workers on the Pandemic’s Front Lines | Center for American Progress
Voting Rights Under Attack | CNN
Healthiest Communities: Marin County | US News
Related Community Action Marin Articles:
June 2020 Article from Marin Independent Journal: Look to Civic Engagement in Fight Against Racism
Remarks delivered on July 4th in Terra Linda (San Rafael), CA at the Racial and Economic Justice is Our America event