Yesterday was a historic moment as President Biden signed into law Juneteenth as a federal holiday! The Black community has long celebrated Juneteenth marking the day news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Blacks in Texas on June 19, 1865 – two and a half years after it was signed by President Lincoln. Today President Drake announced UC will celebrate on June 28 this year (see below). Also today, we held our first ANR Juneteenth celebration in which Chico State University Prof. Lesa A. Johnson offered a powerful keynote speech; among other vital points she said, “Celebration is hollow unless you recognize the struggle.” Additionally, ANR's own Dr. Mary Blackburn provided poignant remarks touching on “Freedom Is Not Free.”
Juneteenth is an important day in American history not only to celebrate the end of slavery, but to acknowledge the great injustices done to Black people in this country. While we celebrate the emancipation of slaves on Juneteenth, it's a reminder we must continue to strive to provide equity for Black members of our community in order for all of us to experience freedom in the same way.
We have begun to take steps within ANR to improve access, equity and a feeling of belonging. As example, UCCE small farms advisors are working with Black farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, ANR's urban agriculture advisors are serving on food policy councils to create a more hospitable environment for urban farmers, and our employee affinity groups have been offering great educational opportunities on the realities and challenges that many continue to face. We need to build on these, our UC ANR Principles of Community, and other initiatives, to find more ways ANR can better serve.
As we contemplate that, I encourage you to read some perspectives offered today in the New York Times. Kevin Young, director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, offers: “African Americans should not have to bear the burden of this history alone, …Nor should Black achievement be something that only African Americans celebrate.” But he also argues that the holiday can be good only if it can retain its essential character as a Black holiday: one that is “both serious and playful,” one in which we “cook and laugh while we remember, remaining rooted in tradition while telling the full story of America and Black life in it.”
Kaitlyn Greenidge, a NYT Opinion contributing writer, is more ambivalent about Juneteenth becoming a national holiday. As she points out in her essay today, different parts of the country have their own specific histories of emancipation and their own traditions associated with them. Those histories shouldn't be forgotten, Greenidge argues, because they “are a reminder that freedom in this country has never meant the same thing to everyone, has definitely never been experienced the same, and has always been conditional.”
These two opinion pieces offer perspective to what some are treating as completed achievement, rather than as a symbol of progress upon a road that still requires much work. Please give these essays a read as you expand your knowledge on Juneteenth and all ongoing challenges facing Black communities today. Moving forward, we'll be working with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Advisory Council to collect ideas and enhance our delivery of the DEI mission.
Best wishes and have a great weekend, Glenda
June 18, 2021
TO THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA COMMUNITY
Yesterday President Biden declared a federal holiday for Juneteenth, the day that celebrates and commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. This is an historic moment for our nation — 156 years in the making.
Celebrated on the 19th of June, Juneteenth, also known as Jubilee Day, Liberation Day and Freedom Day, marks the day in 1865 that enslaved people in Texas learned they were free. This news was delivered two and a half years after President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation became law.
I intend to immediately add this to the University of California's calendar of holidays. This year we will observe this holiday on Monday, June 28th. Starting in 2022, we will celebrate the Juneteenth holiday according to the federal calendar.
As we approach June 19th, I invite you to join me in reflecting on our nation's history, the horrors of centuries of bondage, and the difficult road from liberation to equality. Let us resolve to build a future representing and lifted up by our ideals, our values, and our best selves.
Michael V. Drake, M.D.