Juneteenth | Graphic by Dylan Collison | The Wright State Guardian
Juneteenth, a day set aside to celebrate the freedom after the abolishment of slavery, has turned into a day to recognize and educate communities about the systemic racism and injustice that still exists in our country today.
Wright State University (WSU) used Juneteenth this year to acknowledge the actions that still need to be taken and to share the dedication of staff, faculty and students to fight injustice and move toward a more inclusive campus.
Diversity and resilience
Juneteenth takes place on June 19 and is the anniversary of the day Texan slaves were told that they were free, two and a half years after the signing of the emancipation proclamation.
President Edwards sent a letter to the community in which she acknowledged Juneteenth and recognized that actions towards eradicating injustice are long overdue.
“As important as Juneteenth is in the annals of U.S. history, it is of far greater importance for us today as our country is embroiled, engaged, and empowered by a great national movement regarding racial inequality that is long overdue,” said Edwards in her letter to the community.
Edwards went on to say that the diversity of Wright State is something that makes the community stronger and more resilient, especially in the challenging times that the world is facing today.
“I believe our diversity of thought, culture, background, and experiences fuel our community’s ability to thrive in uncertain times, consider thought-provoking opinions without incident, and nurture one another when confronted by great challenges,” said Edwards.
Part of the importance of Junteenth is taking the time to recognize what still needs to be done and taking action to move closer towards a campus in which everyone feels represented, supported and welcome.
Student Leaders advocating for change
Leaders in the WSU community are fighting against the injustice and bringing to light issues that need to be resolved.
“Our efforts towards diversity and inclusion as a university are slim to none.” said Kevin Jones, president of Black Men on The Move and director of inclusive excellence for Student Government Association (SGA).
“Although we have had meetings and are making small strides to inclusion, equity and equality are important. We have no Chief Diversity Officer, ideally no Bolinga Center, [and] we have no department that ensures the quality of life of underrepresented minorities is the priority of this university,” said Jones.
Jones appreciates Dr. Edwards and her efforts as president of the university, but is ultimately advocating for support from the entire university.
Jones suggests hiring students to the president’s office or to the office of the chief diversity officer to ensure that work towards equity and inclusion is the top priority.
SGA President Ivan Mallett also made a statement at the beginning of the SGA meeting on June 7, stating that he is dedicated to advocating for change.
“We cannot change the entire country from the platform we have, but I am dedicated to ensuring that all members of our community are treated with the respect and dignity that they are born deserving,” said Mallett.
Members of the Black Student Union (BSU) took time to celebrate Juneteenth.
“Our Black Student Union is a fun and supportive family that cares very heavily for our community,” said Jeffrey Shehee, vice president of BSU. “This year for Juneteenth we asked our cabinet what they did to celebrate the commemorative holiday. A lot of our members had family get-togethers, cookouts, donated, and gave back to many Black-owned businesses/restaurants.”
In addition to this, they also wanted to take steps toward change by educating others on why Juneteenth is so important today.
“This year, we have also taken to the media to inform, educate and encourage the historical context behind Juneteenth and the current racial injustices surrounding us in this moment of hardship,” said Shehee. “Using this platform, we hope our voices are heard and begin to see a change where students, staff, and faculty of color are recognized for their accomplishments.”
Engage and educate
The Bolinga Black Cultural Resource Center partnered with the combined programs of Sociology and Anthropology also released a statement regarding Juneteenth and the university’s diversity and inclusion efforts.
In this statement, the faculty and staff announced their solidarity and support for the protests against disenfranchisement, systemic racism, and a reevaluation of and promotion of law enforcement reform.
“The impact of the tragic and unacceptable events in our nation is felt by every single member of the Wright State University community: every student, every staff member, and every faculty member,” according to the statement. “We are called to mourn, to listen–and ultimately, to learn and change.”
The Bolinga Center and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology assured the community they will remain committed to providing coursework, programming, panel discussions and community engagements that aim to educate the community and facilitate learning and growth.
“This social movement illustrates why interdisciplinary, diversity-focused programs and centers which teach students to identify systemic oppressions are more important than ever,” according to the statement. “We must fight injustice wherever and whenever we see it, both on our campus and in our community.”
The University Libraries is also taking part in educating the community by putting together an anti-racism research guide which can be found here >>> and encouraging community-wide book discussions.
“As we face our challenges of today and recall those of our past, I encourage our community to engage on this Juneteenth,” said Edwards. “Engage in growing your knowledge of the Juneteenth holiday. Engage in growing your compassion and attitudes of respect and appreciation toward each other. Engage in acquiring new skills to effect the changes you want to see in your communities. Engage in actively creating a society that promotes inclusiveness, equity, and justice for all.”