On Juneteenth, we celebrate the day that enslaved Black Americans in Texas were made aware of their freedom.
Enslaved people in the Confederate States, which included Texas, had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. That was two-and-a-half years before Juneteenth.
But, it was not until Union generals arrived in Galveston, Texas– two months after the end of the Civil War–- that enslaved people were informed of their freedom. It is this day in history, June 19, 1865, that we commemorate on the Juneteenth National Holiday.
At this moment in history, we are privileged to have not only a full awareness of our freedom, but the ability to act on that freedom in ways both big and small–from gathering in celebration of this holiday to peacefully protesting in defense of civil rights.
As the 18th Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), I am committed to actively advancing equity in all that our agency does. By intentionally focusing our efforts on leveling the playing field and giving everyone a fair shot, we can ensure that this country lives up to its ideals.
One important way we are using our power to advance equity is through the federal procurement process.
The federal government is the world’s largest consumer of goods, and federal procurement is one of the most powerful tools we have to address systemic inequity. Yet, only a small fraction of federal agencies’ total contracting dollars has historically gone to Black, Brown, and other disadvantaged businesses.
It is imperative that we work to right historical wrongs and advance racial equity.
Last year, President Joe Biden made a promise to leverage the federal government’s purchasing power to drive $100 billion to small and disadvantaged businesses. In alignment with the President’s call, I have directed my team at HUD to increase the share of contracts going to small-disadvantaged businesses.
This will translate to millions of dollars spent with Black-and-Brown entrepreneurs. This is money that will flow into the same communities HUD serves.
This historic shift equips businesses with the ability to hire more people, expand their impact, and ultimately, help narrow the racial wealth gap in this country.
Further, we are actively engaging with small and disadvantaged business owners to demystify the federal procurement process and increase access to federal contracting dollars.
We are facing myriad crises in this country: from inflation and supply shortages, hatred and gun violence, to homelessness and housing unaffordability. But the problems we are facing are not unsolvable. And leaders in the Biden-Harris administration are addressing them with resolve, creativity, and thoughtfulness.
We cannot do this alone.
My challenge for you this Juneteenth is to be active in your freedom. It will take active freedom to root out inequity. It will take active freedom to ensure more Americans have a safe and stable place to call home.
If we commit to being active in our freedom, I know that we can work to guarantee true liberty and justice for all who call this nation home.
Be actively free.
Secretary Marcia L. Fudge is the 18th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Throughout her career, Secretary Fudge has worked to help low-income families, seniors, and communities across the country.