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A Candid Conversation about Juneteenth with Evelyn Allen Thomas

BY MAIJA JOHNSON - June 20, 2023

Juneteenth is a milestone in our history. President and executive director of FAME Equity Alliance of Washington, Evelyn Thomas Allen, says, "I have to keep my emotions around certain happenings within the Black community's history, and Juneteenth is one of them."


FAME-EAW is a non-profit organization that builds affordable housing for families and people of Color, focusing on Black/African American families. They work to create pathways to wealth creation by advocating for investments and changes in policies that work to exclude communities of Color from full participation in economic growth and community building in a self-determined way.


Explaining the significance of Juneteenth, Thomas Allen's voice resonates with reverence and determination. She says, "Our ancestors were not freed because the slavemasters did not want to let them know they were freed." It dates back to President Lincoln's signing of the emancipation proclamation and the subsequent soldier's journey to Texas, where they proclaimed freedom to the remaining slaves.


But the road to true emancipation was arduous. Many slave owners and plantations refused to release their slaves until after the planting season, prolonging their work. Thomas Allen describes this process as the "creeping progress of emancipation." Even though the physical shackles were broken over a century ago, the fight for free expression, equity, and justice continues. "We are still fighting for free inclusion, closing wealth gaps, and reparations for the years of free labor," Thomas Allen says. It is an ongoing battle that demands attention and action.


Thomas Allen found her calling many years ago, building services designed to support the Black community and families. When families sought support, Thomas Allen collaborated to assist, focusing not only on immediate needs but also on understanding the root causes of their situations. She says, "We would talk to the families to hear what they had to say."


She acknowledges the profound impact of representation, noting that trust is established more quickly when the people helping you look like you, and says, "You can never truly comprehend the pain and struggle of being denied one's humanity."


Historical oppressions have hindered progress within the Black community. Thomas Allen says, "What continues to amaze me is how one human being can hold another human being as a slave." It is a testament to the resilience and strength of the Black community that, despite centuries of systemic injustice, they continue to rise and strive for equality.


When asked about her motivation to lead, Thomas Allen’s response is simple yet profound: "I love my people." Through her work, she embraces the opportunity to uplift and empower individuals within the Black community. The most critical aspect you can provide is respect for Black individuals as human beings. Their humanity is honored and recognized for their intellect, agency, and ability to articulate their needs, challenges, and solutions.


Thomas Allen is no stranger to advocacy, actively participating in state, city, and council boards and commissions. She fights for funding, policy changes, and resources that benefit ethnic communities. Thomas Allen credits Catholic Community Services for investing time, effort, and resources in advocating for change, training their staff, and strategically navigating policy shifts.


To commemorate Juneteenth, we gathered on Monday, June 19th, and celebrate progress, resilience, and the unwavering commitment to creating a brighter future. Through their efforts, FAME-EAW aimed to be a beacon of hope, showing what could be achieved when a community stood together and fought for justice.


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