Juneteenth: Why Closing the Racial Wealth Gap is Key to Continued Progress

Juneteenth: Why Closing the Racial Wealth Gap is Key to Continued Progress

Juneteenth, also known as “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day,” is a holiday of deep historical significance commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans.

Juneteenth marks the date in 1865 when news of the abolition of slavery finally reached the last enslaved people in Galveston, Texas–two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

Juneteenth has since spread its significance and celebrations to different states, and now it is a Federal Holiday (signed into law by President Joe Biden in 2021). In addition, the holiday has grown significantly since the summer of 2020, following nationwide protests of police killings of African Americans, including George Floyd, in our hometown of Minneapolis.

At Sunrise, we proudly celebrate Juneteenth and have closed our banks to observe its significance. We also see the holiday as a reaffirmation of our core commitment: Ensuring everyone has a fair shake in the financial industry.

Although Juneteenth is celebrated as a holiday of liberation, many are focusing on calling for the holiday to spotlight racial inequities, including closing the African American wealth gap and increasing African American financial freedom.

A nation that forgets its past has no future—and Juneteenth commemorates the progress we’ve made and the change that still must come.

We celebrate the financial trailblazers who opened the doors for financial freedom: like Rev. William Washington Browne, a former Georgia enslaved person, who founded the first-ever African American-owned bank in America Off Site Link in 1888, and Maggie Lena Walker (1864 – 1934), the first woman of any race to serve as Founder and President of a bank in the United States.

But nearly 150 years later, African Americans are still not getting their fair shake regarding finance. Although African American families’ net worth has increased since 2019, the gap is alarming: African Americans’ net worth is 70% below that of non-African-American households. Off Site Link

Increasing Access to Capital in Our Increasingly Diverse Market

Access to capital is vital when building wealth through entrepreneurship, homeownership, or commercial development, yet major roadblocks exist. For example, 46% of African American business owners say they’ve faced issues accessing capita Off Site Linkl.

As the Twin Cities becomes increasingly diverse, bridging the gap in our communities becomes more urgent.

We’re committed to paving a pathway to equality through our partnership with GroundBreak Coalition Off Site Link and many leaders from the private, public, and philanthropic sectors to make intentional systemic changes.

GroundBreak has a bold vision to permanently change how capital flows to African American wealth builders in our region, intending to close racial wealth gaps across all communities.

We are deeply committed to our customers, community, and nation to creating financial empowerment for all. That means being at the frontlines of action (we invite you to read our Impact Report to learn more) Off Site Link.

As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Life's most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”

What are you doing for Juneteenth? Join Sunrise, Pimento Relief Services, and others on June 17 at the Juneteenth celebration on West Broadway.