This week, Congress passed a bill to make Juneteenth the nation’s 12th federal holiday. Starting in 2022, Washington state will also recognize Juneteenth as an official state holiday and day off for state workers. This legislation marks a significant milestone in recognizing and addressing historic racism in our state and nation. It also affirms Pierce College’s commitment to becoming an anti-racist institution, leading with racial equity, and advancing racial, social and economic justice in service to our diverse communities.
We would like to share the words of Dr. Ciera Graham, our Associate Director of College Access, Retention, and Engagement, regarding the impact of Juneteenth:
“Juneteenth holds a special significance in the lives of Black Americans, and in our nation’s history. While Independence Day is commonly and traditionally celebrated on July 4th, June 19th is a marker of Black independence, freedom and liberation. On June 19th, 1865, Union solders occupied Galveston, Texas and announced that slaves were now free from the rule and bondage of their slave masters. This historic occasion came two and half years later after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation(https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured-documents/emancipation-proclamation) in 1863.
After June 19th, 1865, former slaves celebrated Juneteenth by delivering inspirational speeches, singing songs of jubilation and praise, and holding gatherings with family and friends centered on celebrating Black culture in all of its beauty, joy and greatness. Today, Juneteenth serves as a powerful reminder of how Black people are empowered to take back the racist narrative surrounding our lives.
Juneteenth implores us to recognize and center the humanity of Black people. Black people are remarkable in all of our shades of melanin; Black people are brilliant in all of our forms of knowledge creation, and Black people are innovative, constantly pushing the limits and boundaries of creativity and originality. Black joy is an act of resistance. Black joy is revolutionary and transformative. Black joy is about affirming one’s beautiful life. Black joy is commemorating the resilience, grit and fortitude of our ancestors and remaining steadfast in our mission to break generational curses and build legacies. Black joy is self-love. On Juneteenth, we know that to be joyful and Black is an act of resistance to white supremacy and systems of oppression. Black joy is a flame that never extinguishes.
As a college who remains fervent in their ability to dismantle white supremacy and advance racial and social equity, Juneteenth is a time for deep reflection on how anti-blackness remains deeply entrenched within the walls of higher education, and our most powerful institutions. Juneteenth is a time for colleges to confront their racist legacies, and to examine how we can and should actively work to disrupt and eradicate racist practices and policies. Civil rights have always been delayed for Black people, and Juneteenth forces us to contend with the contradiction of freedom and liberation for our most marginalized populations. The fight for true freedom and liberation continues and we need our most vocal and action-oriented allies and advocates to stand with us.”
To learn more about Juneteenth, check out these resources at: http://juneteenth.com/ , and listen to the historic and dynamic speech by Fredrick Douglas, “What to a Slave is the 4th of July?” at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3YsMWLSyxY&t=18s
Thank you to Dr. Graham for these important words, and to all of you as we commemorate this historic milestone.