June 17, 2021

Dear CSU Community,

This coming Saturday is Juneteenth.  On this day, communities across the country commemorate June 19, 1865, when Black enslaved people were legally freed in Texas—two and a half years after the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Last year around this time, I had the opportunity to send my first message to you about Juneteenth.  I hope some of you will take a few minutes to read that initial message and explore some of the resources linked there, especially this wonderful video from Lonnie Bunch, the Founding Director of the National Museum of African American History

This year, I am calling Juneteenth to our collective attention a few days early, this week, the United State Congress passed a resolution establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, a US holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. (The resolution must be signed by the President to become law.)

Why is it so important that Juneteenth be recognized as a federal holiday?   I’ve read powerful arguments for this step, many of which call attention to the gap of nearly a century from July 4, 1776, when the nascent America declared its independence, and Juneteenth, when those Black enslaved people who remained cut off from the language of the Declaration of Independence were finally legally included.  Award-winning journalist and scholar Nikole Hannah Jones says that Juneteenth must be a national holiday if our country is ever going to “acknowledge what we did and who we are.”

Even these same arguments caution that a federally recognized holiday is at best a small first step, and express hope that the holiday can be an opportunity for not just shared celebration, but education, reconciliation, and support for Black businesses.

This measured approach resonates with the standards to which we hold ourselves at CSU.  We are not satisfied with small gestures, but we recognize that they can have power when they are part of ongoing, shared work.  In the case of Juneteenth, I fervently hope we can celebrate it together as a federal holiday next year and embed this critical piece of our nation’s history into our learning and dialogue —and I also know we will continue to work together to address racism, bias, and injustice in our community and our country.

If you’re interested in learning more about Juneteenth—including how to celebrate this year and how to support Black-owned businesses in our community—please check out the amazing resources from our Office of the Vice President for Diversity.  I urge you to also read this SOURCE story published Monday, in which several CSU community members, including the new director of our Black/African American Cultural Center (and alum) Duan Ruff, eloquently share the significance of this date to them.

And Happy Juneteenth!