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Thoughts on Juneteenth

June 16, 2023
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Kevin Williams Jr., Associate Dean for Diversity, Community and Inclusion at Anderson University, shares his thoughts about Juneteenth.

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On Monday, June 19, we observe Juneteenth. Kevin Williams Jr., Associate Dean for Diversity, Community and Inclusion at Anderson University, shares his thoughts.

When we talk about history at times, some may tend to think about it as something that happened back then. However, the reality is that history is unfolding every day. The time and place you are today will become a part of history as early as tomorrow. So, as we take a moment to reflect on the importance of Juneteenth, I want to invite you into how it became significant to me. 

Growing up in my household in the state of Ohio, we celebrated the fourth of July as a day out of school or work for a cookout and fireworks. From my days in grade school, I knew it was an Independence Day from British rule on July 4, 1776. Yet in my home we never spoke of that day as one of freedom for us. I never really thought about that reality until after I graduated from college and was invited to a Juneteenth celebration. At this celebration there were spoken word artists, drummers, African dancers, lots of great foods from the African diaspora, arts and crafts for kids, games and other musical entertainment. It was a joyous occasion, yet it also had a few somber moments as an individual educated those in attendance about the importance of the day. 

At this festival I learned that all the slaves were not freed the same day. Hearing this, my heart sank into the pit of my stomach, thinking how I did not know they were now free. But there was no pager, cell phone or computer to help send the message along. There were also people set on maintaining a particular norm in the environment and place in which the word of the Emancipation Proclamation had to reach. On the favored day of June 19, 1865, some years from the original proclamation, the last of the slaves learned of their freedom. This is when I began to think how we as human beings seem to not understand that our humanity is inextricably linked, meaning when I am free and able to live out my God given destiny, you too can be freed to live yours. However, if I am in bondage and you are free, although you may seem free, you are in bondage with me. 

Juneteenth is a celebration of the reality that the freedom that was proclaimed on this day was a freedom for all. Opal Lee, known as the grandmother of the Juneteenth Holiday, stated none of us are free until we are all free. Lee did not want this holiday to be something that was a Black holiday but a national holiday in the states celebrating the nation’s freedom. Knowing this, it is my desire that I provide resources for you to learn more and read more. 

So below please find resources to dig deeper into the history and the way in which this came to be a holiday: 

“The History and Legacy of the Holiday that Commemorates the End of Slavery in the South,” by Charles River Editors

“Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free,” by Alice Faye Duncan

“Island of Color Where Juneteenth Started,” by Izola Ethel Fedford Collins

Beyond this, feel free to stop in and discuss this with Associate Dean, Kevin Williams or Vice President, James Noble, in the Anderson University Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Kevin Williams Jr. is the Associate Dean for Diversity, Community & Inclusion at Anderson University. 


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