Monthly Cultural Corner - June

June 1, 2022

What is Juneteenth?

WooHoo it’s a holiday!  “I get a day off” but why?  I don’t even know what Juneteenth is.

This is a very common question and honestly not many know the reason why Juneteenth is so important.  Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.  The Emancipation Proclamation was the first significant push to end slavery, but the end did not come until over two years later.  

Juneteenth (short for “June Nineteenth”) marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. The troops’ arrival came a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth honors the end to slavery in the United States and is considered the longest-running African American holiday.

On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln established that all enslaved people would be forever freed, but the Emancipation only applied to those states under Confederate control and not to slave holding border states or rebel areas under Union control.  Texas was able to maintain enslaved people because there was no significant Union presence in the state.  By 1865 Texas still had approximately 250,000 enslaved people.  On June 19, 1865, announcement of General Order No. 3, by Union Army general Gordon Granger, proclaimed freedom for enslaved people in Texas, which was the last state of the Confederacy with institutional slavery.

In 1865 freed men organized the first annual celebration they called Jubilee Day on June 19th.  Juneteenth has been celebrated ever since.  The day was recognized as a federal holiday on June 17, 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law.  Juneteenth's commemoration is on the anniversary date of the June 19th, 1865, General Order No. 3.

Penny Lane has a history of standing up for the rights of others.  Today Penny Lane Centers honors the history of the African American experience by designating the day as an agency wide holiday.  Acknowledging the day symbolizes our stance on racial and social justice issues.  We will not sit still or stay quiet in the face of inequity.  We boldly and proudly state that we accept the lived experiences of all, fight the inequities that exist in our society and celebrate our differences.  

We will forever remain curious and committed to making the world a better place as we work from a heart centered culture to transform lives.

-Judy Grant, Penny Lane Centers

Meet Rafael Lopez

Hello, my name is Rafael Lopez, and my pronouns are He/Him/They/Them. I am the Peer Navigator for our LGBTQ+ services at Penny Lane Centers. I have been working for Penny Lane Center for more than 4 years in programs such as Intensive Services, TAY Drop-Center, Embracing Identities, and now for LGBTQ+ Tailored Services for Youth. I am excited to be part of this new program because it provides services to members of my community. I was born and raised in the city of El Monte; CA surrounded by people who looked just like me. Both my parents were born in Oaxaca, Mexico, a state full of traditions, unique cuisine and best known for its indigenous population.

My parents first language is an indigenous dialect called, “Chinanteco,” which is one of many dialects spoken in Oaxaca. This created a language barrier since they were not fluent in Spanish. At an early age, they left everything behind in Oaxaca, Mexico, including family and loved ones as they migrated to the U.S for better opportunities. When they came to the States, they both had to work two jobs to provide for my brothers and I, often leaving my older brother to care for us. Despite how much time they spent apart from us because of their long work hours, they made it a tradition to always spend our birthdays together as a family. One cultural tradition I remember most is "Dia De Los Reyes Magos". This day is very important in Mexico, which falls on January 6.  This celebrates the day the three Wisemen came to offer valuable gifts to baby Jesus as a way of respect. As part of our tradition, we write letters the night before the Wisemen arrive in the hope of getting the gift that we wished for. I remember the morning of January 6 waking up and opening my gift left by the three Wiseman (I later figured out it was my parents, not the Wiseman). I specifically remember the excitement, most of the time they would not leave me the gift I wished for, but they would sometimes leave me a bag of marbles, since I would love to collect marbles. Sometimes I would even trade them at school with my friends in exchange for snacks. Also, as part of this celebration it involves cutting the "Rosca De Reyes" (a baked bread shaped in the form of a round oval shape in which they also put inside 3 plastic baby toys) and drinking champurrado. When you get to cut the piece of Rosca and you get one of those 3 plastic baby toys, then you must make tamales on February 2 and you have to invite everyone in your family.

While celebrating this festivity, my family enjoys listening to “Musica Nortena,” while enjoying some tamales de mole. Oaxaca is also known for celebrating the LGBTQ+ community and hosting their own pageant show for people in the community. In Juchitan, a community in Oaxaca lives a group of individuals known as the “Muxes.” These individuals challenge western ideas of gender identity, hoping to create a space free of labels and roles. As a Latinx Queer man, I am honored to be part of a culture full of amazing food, indigenous tribes, and historical landmarks. I would like for people to learn more about the different indigenous tribes and their history, since many have gotten lost throughout the years.

-Rafael Lopez, Penny Lane Centers

June Stands for Pride

From Wednesday, June 1 – Thursday, June 30 we will be proud and loud.  It is Pride month, and it is time to celebrate our LGBTQIA community as well as show our commitment and  unwavering support.  

Penny Lane Centers is committed to the LGBTQIA+ community.  As we prepare for this year’s EDGY conference and move forward with the All Children All Families accreditation, we continue to stand with resolve and publicly proclaim that All are Welcome Here and that Love is Love.  

June is a time for us to acknowledge the challenges and triumphs from within and about the LGBTQIA+ community.  As I sought to educate myself on Pride, I did a quick Google search, which yielded pages and pages of results.  I looked at the word pride and then I investigated the history of Gay Pride and the impetus behind Pride month.

I asked myself what is it to be proud?  I know what it feels like to be proud of someone and to be proud of myself.  There is an emotional reaction to pride.  It washes over you, making you more confident in who you are and your abilities.  With pride we feel worthy.  My understanding of pride led to my examination of “Gay Pride.”   Gay pride or LGBTQIA+ pride is the promotion of the self-affirmation, dignity, equality, and increased visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTIA+) people as a social group. Pride, as opposed to shame and social stigma, is the predominant outlook that bolsters most LGBTQ+ rights movements.  

The term "Gay Pride" was crafted by Thom Higgins, a gay rights activist in Minnesota (1969+).   Brenda Howard, a bisexual activist, is known as the "Mother of Pride" for her work in coordinating the first Pride march in New York City, and she also originated the idea for a week-long series of events around Pride Day which became the genesis of the annual LGBT Pride celebrations that are now held around the world every June.

Now that we better understand what it is to be proud, let’s find out how and why this movement came to be.  

The Stonewall Riots, also called the Stonewall Uprising, began in the early hours of June 28, 1969, when New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village in New York City. The raid sparked a riot among bar patrons and neighborhood residents as police roughly hauled employees and patrons out of the bar, leading to six days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement outside the bar on Christopher Street, in neighboring streets and in nearby Christopher Park. The Stonewall Riots served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world.  This riot and further protests and rioting over the following nights were the watershed moment in the modern LGBTQIA+ rights movement and the impetus for organizing LGBT pride marches on a much larger public scale.

As I read more I found a 2021 proclamation from President, Joe Biden, which read: (Click to read the proclamation in its entirety)

The uprising at the Stonewall Inn in June 1969, sparked a liberation movement — a call to action that continues to inspire us to live up to our Nation’s promise of equality, liberty, and justice for all.  Pride is a time to recall the trials the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) community has endured and to rejoice in the triumphs of trailblazing individuals who have bravely fought — and continue to fight — for full equality.  Pride is both a jubilant communal celebration of visibility and a personal celebration of self-worth and dignity.  This Pride Month, we recognize the valuable contributions of LGBTQ+ individuals across America, and we reaffirm our commitment to standing in solidarity with LGBTQ+ Americans in their ongoing struggle against discrimination and injustice.
During LGBTQ+ Pride Month, we recognize the resilience and determination of the many individuals who are fighting to live freely and authentically.  In doing so, they are opening hearts and minds, and laying the foundation for a more just and equitable America.  This Pride Month, we affirm our obligation to uphold the dignity of all people and dedicate ourselves to protecting the most vulnerable among us.

At Penny Lane Centers we will continue to stand up for underserved and marginalized communities.  As an organization of social action we are proud to be an ally.  We are proud to welcome all through our doors and we will forever support the LGBTQIA+ journey.  Note, however, while pride month is indeed June, Penny Lane celebrates all things LGBTQIA+ all year long.  

We invite you to be proud with us!!  
-Judy Grant, Penny Lane Centers

The Visibility of Our LGBTQ+ Community

At Penny Lane we believe in using data to help us inform our decisions.   The Outcomes and Innovations department’s function is to accumulate and report data in such a way as it is helpful for leadership to reinforce decisions or if necessary, change direction to provide quality care to all our clients.   Each month we look to highlight one statistic from our data base and with June being Gay Pride Month we have compiled some information on our clients and how they fit in to the demographic.

Prior to 2016, clients may or may not have been asked about their sexual orientation by their therapists or case workers. However, it was not officially recorded so there was no way to tell how big the LGBTQ+ representation in our population was. In 2016 only 2% of clients had their sexuality recorded due to them voluntarily offering this information.   At that time none of the 2% identified as LGBTQ+.  

In recent years more clients had their sexuality recorded, so did our understanding of the makeup of our population. In 2017, 14% of clients had their sexuality recorded and 12% of those clients were LGBTQ+. As you can see, we have “corrected the record” when it comes to understanding who makes up our population and the visibility of our LGBTQ+ community has grown a great deal.

-Penny Lane's Innovations & Outcomes Team