As Juneteenth approaches, Wayne State University has announced that it will host a series of campus events this month aimed at celebrating the upcoming holiday and highlighting numerous related social issues.
The Juneteenth series, which runs from June 12 to June 20, will include an art exhibition, panel discussions and a keynote address by University of North Carolina Professor Ronald Williams II, Ph.D., a noted expert in African American studies.
Alex Boesch, intercultural training director in WSU’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, pointed out that the Juneteenth holiday recognizes the day — June 19, 1865 — when the U.S. Army arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved Black people that they’d been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued more than two years earlier in January 1863.
“Over 150 years later, the United States is still grappling with the social, economic and cultural impacts of slavery on our community, especially among African Americans,” Boesch said. “In 2021, a survey from Gallup identified that 60% of Americans knew ‘nothing at all’ or ‘a little bit’ about Juneteenth. At WSU, we believe it is critical for all of our community to know the significance of Juneteenth. As a result, we commemorate and celebrate Juneteenth by providing educational, celebratory and civic engagement opportunities for students, staff, faculty and the broader community."
Boesch added that the university was awarded a grant from Michigan Humanities to help sponsor the programs.
The official Juneteenth opening celebration will kick off June 12 at 2 p.m. at the Bernath Auditorium inside the David Adamany Undergraduate Library. The opening will be followed by Williams’ address June 13; a Black art exhibit June 14; and a panel discussion — “Juneteenth: Freedoms, Education and Resilience” — sponsored by the WSU Organization of Black Alumni June 15.
The university will be closed June 19 in observance of the holiday but will reopen the following day, which will also mark the series’ closing event. The weeklong celebration will wrap up with a performance by neo-classical pianist BLKBOK at the Willis Show Bar June 20 at 7:30 p.m.
Said Boesch: “Our events are designed to increase the awareness of Juneteenth, celebrate its significance and encourage reflection on the longstanding impacts of slavery.”
To learn more about WSU’s 2023 Juneteenth celebration, please visit events.wayne.edu/juneteenth.
For a list of resources about the history of Juneteenth, go to diversity.wayne.edu/education-training/juneteenth/resources.
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