In a message sent to you earlier this month, the Cabinet expressed our collective thoughts on the need to support our African American friends and colleagues who experience persistent racism within our society. As with many societal issues, it is imperative that we have a strong, shared understanding of history, struggle and progress (or lack of it) in order to affect the kind of change we need. For me, that’s what today, Juneteeth, is all about --- a day dedicated to understanding.
To this end, I am pleased to share a reflection on Juneteenth written by our colleague, Tari Houston-Collins, who is also a member of Cal Maritime’s Unity Council. I trust that it will spark awareness, discussion, and unity of action within our campus community.
With respect, TC
Thomas A. Cropper
California State University Maritime Academy
Juneteenth: Celebrating Freedom
June 19, 1865 – the day that the last remaining slaves living in Galveston, Texas first learned that slavery had been abolished, and they were finally freed from bondage nearly two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. What a glorious day!
One might ask how this devious plot to preserve the oppression of black people in America could echo across the state for so long? We may never know nor relate to the embattled minds of our forefathers. But we can take a moment, this moment, to appreciate and pay homage to all the freedom fighters – within and alongside the African American community – who fought not only for the freedom of black people, but for their dignity and humanity. We take this moment to reflect what it meant to enslaved African Americans to live as a person rather than property. We take this moment to reverberate the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King “Free at last, free at last!”
As we commemorate this milestone in our history, let us not forget that we still have much work to do. Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and African American Independence Day, in all its splendor is also a humble reminder of the systemic oppression of African Americans that still exist. We must all take an honest look in the mirror – it starts there.
Today, let us rejoice in the resilience and brilliance of the African American community – from the ancestors of yesterday, to the leaders of tomorrow.