This year’s Juneteenth comes at an incredibly significant moment following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Philando Castile, Sean Reed, Tony McDade, Rashard Brooks, Riah Milton, Dominique “Rem’Mie” Fel and many other black American lives. These murders ignited a global outcry for justice that stretches beyond police reform, calling for all institutions to reflect upon their history of white supremacy and pull out the very roots of injustices. Our respect for the innate dignity of every human person, as well as our mission to advance the common good call upon us to stand with the world in creating a just and equitable society.
The university is preparing to revise the Action Plan to Combat Racism with new measurable goals and objectives. Yesterday, we shared the newly launched Racial Justice Initiative which will strengthen our racial equity work with local community partners and leaders, led by Dr. Yohuru Williams. There is, indeed, much work ahead.
Please take the time to reflect upon the milestone marker of Juneteenth and our history as a country and institution. The following programs are open to all students, faculty and staff:
- Dialogue about the “Significance of Juneteenth” (June 19 at 2 p.m. Central time). Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when all enslaved people in Texas were freed. This was one and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation and as such, more than 250,000 black Americans were still enslaved despite this federal mandate of freedom. Juneteenth marks the true end of slavery in the United States. Attend this Zoom session with St. Thomas black faculty who will share about the importance of Juneteenth and what this means to them. Click here on June 19 to join via Zoom. The Student Diversity and Inclusion Services office (SDIS) hosts this session.
- Watch ABC’s prime time special, “Juneteenth: A Celebration of Overcoming,” featuring Dr. Yohuru Williams along with other distinguished guests (June 19 from 7-8 p.m. Central time). ABC News will honor Juneteenth with this special programming on the symbolism of the holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in America.
- Participate in a weeklong Call to Action (June 19-25) by Academics for Black Survival and Wellness. This initiative consists of seven sessions that are asynchronous and synchronous, and registration can be for the entire series or selected days. The purpose of this week is to intervene against anti-black racism and other forms of white supremacy as it manifests in academia and, in turn, enhances the safety and wellness of black students, staff, faculty and community members. Two tracks are available – one on training in anti-blackness for non-black identified people, and another focusing on wellness for black identified people. Today is the last day to register; click here to register.
- Participate in a weeklong educational series on “Becoming Human: Dismantling Racism” (July 6 -17). This series is hosted by St. Thomas faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences and consists of six asynchronous modules and two synchronous Zoom discussions. The launch date of July 6 marks the anniversary of the shooting of Philando Castile. Completing the entire series comes with a certificate of completion. Click here to register.
Ongoing reflections and educational programs are only one component of the journey St. Thomas is undertaking to transform our university’s culture to one that is still more inclusive and welcoming of all people. We may not have all the answers, but we are committed to building transparent and inclusive processes to educate and engage our community in a way that motivates positive social change.
Thank you to all who have reached out with your ideas. Your input helps to inform St. Thomas’ collective efforts in becoming a more diverse, equitable and inclusive university.