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Aisha's Reflections on Juneteenth

Dear Champion for Justice, 

Last year Cabrini Green Legal Aid celebrated our 50th anniversary as an organization. One of the highlights for me has been the creation of the Art & Archives exhibit honoring the legacy of CGLA. The exhibit helps tell the history of this organization but most importantly celebrates the people and the communities we serve.  

We’ve seen that working with artists is not just about remembering our history, it’s also about opening minds and transforming hearts. Art speaks on a different level and it can be truly cathartic for the artist and transformative for the person who experiences the art. Art helps us find ourselves, or more accurately to return to ourselves. As Emily McDowell says returning to ourselves is “an unlearning, an excavation, a remembering who you were before the world got its hands on you.” 

For me, and perhaps many others, I had to cultivate an understanding of Black history and sense of Black pride. We’re not born with a sense of separation or inferiority, but the world gets its hands on you and imputes and reinforces these false notions. Art has the power to hold a mirror to inequities we have normalized, and shake up the foundation of these beliefs we’ve been handed; it can allow us to also envision and dream of a better present and future.  

This week we celebrated Juneteenth, and in many ways this celebration reminded me of what it is to remember who you were before the world got its hands on you. Juneteenth for me is about lifting multiple strands of the Black experience. Our history as a people is complicated but it is not uniform. Juneteenth is about acknowledging that yes, we have come so far but we still have the vestiges of the past in how racism and anti-Blackness shows up in the criminal legal system, discriminatory housing practices, the family regulation system, and in the wealth gap that divides Black families from other communities.  

Like Juneteenth, the Arts & Archives exhibit was an opportunity to acknowledge CGLA's history, to celebrate our work, and to dream of the future. The artists presented a history of Cabrini-Green but also celebrated Black excellence and creativity. We highlighted that CGLA’s own history is rich: because of historical disinvestment in Cabrini-Green, we not only formed to serve the community’s legal needs, we also partnered with the community through mentorships, funding and stipends for small businesses, and other community supports. We have been and continue to be a place of hope and a force for equity. 

Today, Juneteenth stands as a time for celebration, recognition, and a call to action. It serves as a reminder that liberation is rooted in investing in our own and one another’s transformation. It isn’t just about dismantling the interlocking systems of racism, it’s also about envisioning something new that is healing and reaches our divine interconnectedness.  

I hope that you will join us this year, as we come out of our 50th anniversary, in acknowledging where we have been, celebrating our rich history and experiences, and in the spirit of Juneteenth, resolving for a brighter future for all.   

Love & Solidarity,



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