Today's Update: Juneteenth

June 17, 2021

Dear Student Life Team, Tomorrow we will observe a national, state and Ohio State holiday. Holidays are nice, but this brand new one has me overcome with joy. It is an historic step for our country, and one that moves our arc toward justice and equity significantly forward. 

I hope you’ve seen President Johnson’s message from earlier this evening on this subject. You can read it on the Office of the President's website.

This year, Juneteenth marks the 156th anniversary of slaves in Texas being told by the U.S. government that, “in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

Our nation celebrates July 4 as “Independence Day.” But freedom didn’t happen for all Americans on July 4, 1776. For a huge segment of the population, freedom, or at least the promise of freedom, didn’t arrive until 1865. Now, these two holidays stand together on our national calendar as equal symbols of freedom. It is a moment of great pride for the U.S.A.

Freedom. It’s such a powerful word. It moved the people hearing it in Galveston, Texas, that day to tears, and it can stir great emotion in us today. It is an integral part of the fabric of this nation. Many will say it is the rock upon which this country was founded. It is not meant to be an idea or a goal; we are to believe it is who and what we are as a nation. 

In reality, it is an aspiration. While we celebrate an anniversary often called Black Emancipation Day, another year goes by where we must recognize that there is more work to be done. There have been 156 anniversaries, to be exact. 

That’s a long struggle. Many of you attended the session with Dr. Stephen Quaye last month, organized by our CAPT team. He talked about “racial battle fatigue” and how truly debilitating it is to continually deal with racism and discrimination. 

The answers won’t come overnight, but we must step up the pace of progress, because 156 years after the promise was made is a long time to wait for true freedom.

Our government’s decision to make Juneteenth a federal holiday is a monumental step in the right direction, and we must take advantage of this new momentum to demand freedom for all people. 

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “No one is free until we are all free.” I encourage you to use Juneteenth, 2021 to raise your voice for freedom. 

You can read more about Juneteenth including its history, local observations and special messages on the Office of Diversity and Inclusion website.  

Happy Juneteenth!