Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a media availability with Deputy Mayor J. Phillip Thompson, Strategic Policy Initiatives and Executive Director Sideya Sherman, Task Force on Racial Inclusion and Equity. City Hall. Thursday, June 17, 2021. (305701)
Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

Juneteenth kicks off this weekend on June 19th. Having just become officially a New York State holiday last year after massive Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and a federal holiday by presidential decree this Thursday, the celebrations are expected to be massive.

“Juneteenth marked the end of slavery, but not the end of systemic, structural racism in America,” said de Blasio, in his morning briefing, “To begin to repair harms of the past, New York City is investing in the future and building generational wealth.”

In honor of the holiday, de Blasio announced a new education and finance initiative from the taskforce on Racial Inclusion & Equity, called the NYC Juneteenth Economic Justice Plan. It aims at bridging the racial wealth gap in the city by investing in universal baby bonds and providing over 2,800 four-year City University of New York (CUNY) scholarships for Black and low-income students.

Universal baby bonds are essentially a savings plan for public school kindergarten students that will start next year. This initiative will both open accounts and put a minimum of $100 into every kid’s account.

In 2016, de Blasio launched a baby bonds 529 college savings pilot in Queens School District 30 in partnership with the non-profit, NYC Kids Rise (NYCKR). Children in this district now have over $6 million to go toward their college and career training. The program will be expanded to all school districts with an investment of $15 million annually through 2025, said the mayor’s office. 

“Juneteenth is a time to recommit ourselves to equality and the work of creating a more just New York City for all, especially our students,” said Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter. “Investing in the educational journey of our youngest learners is an apt way to mark this Juneteenth and I’m grateful to all who have come together to make this possible.”

The CUNY Scholarship Fund will serve 1,000 students at Medgar Evers College and 1,800 low-income students in neighborhoods hit hardest by COVID, NYCHA housing developments, and other low-income zip codes, said the mayor’s office.

“We are exceedingly grateful to be named as a beneficiary of funds delineated in Mayor de Blasio’s Juneteenth Economic Justice Plan. As we celebrate Juneteenth, it is fitting that our college named for Medgar Wiley Evers, the civil rights icon who gave his life for the rights and freedoms of others, would be the recipient of this historic and far-reaching investment in education,” said Dr. Patricia Ramsey, president of Medgar Evers College.

Medgar Evers College will also launch the Brooklyn Recovery Corps to provide over 200 students annually with the opportunity to have paid internships, work experience and career prep, focusing on areas of science, business, public health, or the green economy.

“Racial inequity is not only about bias and trauma—it is perpetuated by an enormous wealth gap,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. 

“The median net worth of white households is approximately eight times as much as that of Black households, for example. That gap represents generations of underinvestment and generations of unrealized dreams and potential,” said McCray.

U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-North Bronx) added that the racial wealth gap was a crisis created by policy which must be undone by policy. “We cannot celebrate Juneteenth without doing the hard work of upending all polices that are the legacy of chattel slavery,” said Bowman.

U.S. Rep. Richie Torres (D- South Bronx) said that he was proud to work alongside other congress members to pass legislation that declared Juneteenth a national holiday. 

“However, there is significant work to be done to achieve racial equity and close the racial wealth gap in America,” said Torres. “I am encouraged by the Juneteenth Economic Justice Plan and look forward to working with the mayor’s office to fight against systemic racism by ensuring Black Americans have equal opportunities to build generational wealth.”

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