Juneteenth: A day to celebrate creativity, community and resilience

By Adrienne Harrell, Madlyn Norman-Terrance, Rhonda Rhodes, Audries Blake, Aaron Jones, Marc-Emile Johnston, and Irene Diaz Martinez, members of the UC Santa Cruz Juneteenth Organizing Committee


The campus commemoration of Juneteenth is set for Friday, June 25, and this year’s event is especially meaningful, as it follows the news that federal leaders are making Juneteenth a national holiday. UC announced today it will add Juneteenth to its calendar of holidays. The theme of this year’s campus event is “Celebrating Creativity, Community and Resilience,” and the organizing committee invites all in the UC Santa Cruz community to join us.

Juneteenth, or June 19th, is also known as Emancipation Day, Black Independence Day or Jubilee Day. It commemorates the day in 1865 when a Union general informed enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, that the Civil War had ended and that they were free. That was two-and-a-half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in the Southern states.

Juneteenth is a time for celebration, reflection, remembrance, and examination. In 2021, 156 years after that day in Texas, we must together face a sad and frustrating truth: There is still much work to be done in our nation, our communities and on our campus for Black people to achieve true equity and equality. Over the past two years, Americans and global citizens of all backgrounds have awakened to the reality that anti-Black racism remains deeply interwoven in our nation’s fabric.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. noted that the arc of the moral universe is long but that it bends toward justice. We believe this to be true, but know that bending does not occur by chance. It takes work, and part of that work is raising our voices in the face of injustice whenever and wherever we see it, even when doing so is sometimes uncomfortable.

We are encouraged by the fact that so many people, particularly young people, are demanding change.

One way to lend support for Black equality is by recognizing important Black milestones like Juneteenth. Our hope is that by reflecting on the holiday’s history, we are educating people in our campus community. Celebrating the anniversary also allows us to join together in the name of justice and equality.

We encourage you to use tomorrow, June 19, next week’s campus commemoration and the day UC will observe Juneteenth, June 28, as an opportunity to think deeply about the ways in which racism persists in our country — in everything from education to employment, policing to politics, and housing to health care. It takes courage to confront systemic problems, and we are encouraged that our campus community is taking a hard look at what we can do better and discussing concrete actions with campus stakeholders.

If we want racial justice to move beyond aspiration, it requires all of us to commit to what actions we can take. We remain hopeful that better days are ahead.

For more information on Juneteenth: Celebrating Creativity, Community and Resilience, organized by Staff Human Resources is available online. The event will run from noon to 1:30 p.m. Friday, June 25, via Zoom. The Zoom link will be available to those who register for the event. Numerous speakers and a special musical guest are planned.