By Laura Lopez Ramos
After declaring Juneteenth an official day of observance, FIU will make university history with the first Juneteenth Freedom Day Celebration on June 19, marking a new annual tradition for the university community.
“Juneteenth is an integral part of U.S. history because it springs from the Civil War. However, it has been rarely celebrated or taught," said El pagnier Hudson, vice provost for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at FIU. “As a recommendation of the Equity Action Initiative (EAI), we made it a priority to bring awareness to this day—not only among our Black students, faculty and staff—but also the entire FIU community as part of our American history.”
Considered by many scholars as the United States’ second independence day, Juneteenth is most popularly celebrated in Texas, as it commemorates the day the last remaining slaves were freed. More than 250,000 Black people in Texas remained enslaved after the Emancipation Proclamation became official on January 1, 1863. Freedom finally came to them on June 19, 1865. Until then, there were not enough Union troops in Texas to enforce emancipation.
While it is commonly celebrated among the African American community, Juneteenth and its history remain largely unknown.
“Growing up in Miami, I didn’t learn about Juneteenth until I went to college when my roommate from Philadelphia told me about how her family celebrated it. So, when Juneteenth was discussed during our EAI planning meetings, I knew, at minimum, we needed to educate people on the importance of this day," Hudson said.
With this in mind, the theme for this inaugural Juneteenth celebration became “Educate, Celebrate, and Heal."
“In addition to our mission to educate about Juneteenth, we wanted this event to be about celebration because historically this day has been about people coming together and celebrating freedom,” explained Emmanuele Bowles, director of the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. “Finally, the healing component was added because Juneteenth is also about reflection. After such an intense year, we wanted to give our community a space to heal, so the planning committee recommended including activities such as journaling and wellness sessions,” she concluded.
FIU’s Juneteenth festivities will feature both in-person and virtual programming beginning June 14 and will culminate with the Freedom Day Celebration on Saturday, June 19. For a full list of Juneteenth events, visit dei.fiu.edu/juneteenth.
The in-person opening ceremony on June 14 will be followed by a panel discussion hosted by the Center for Leadership. This educational event titled Looking Back, Moving Forward- What’s Next @ FIU will feature historical perspective on Juneteenth as well as a discussion on Juneteenth today and how FIU’s leadership is making progress on diversity, equity and inclusion.
Some of the week’s highlights include a virtual teach-in on Wednesday, June 16, on the ways Juneteenth is experienced today and the myriad social justice issues around it, and a special BBC reunion that will convene current and former Black faculty, staff and students on Friday, June 18, at the Biscayne Bay Campus.
The culmination of the week’s festivities will be the Freedom Day Celebration, a free event, open to the entire South Florida community, on Saturday, June 19, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Albert & Earlene Dotson Pavilion Lawn (MARC building at MMC).The event will feature music by DJ OSOCITY and Curtis Lundy and the All-Star Band, as well as a step show, poets, artisans, Frost Museum art activities and exhibitions, and more.
Attendees are encouraged to bring their lawn chairs and mats. The first 200 faculty/staff and 150 students to register at go.fiu.edu/freedomday and check-in by noon will receive a food voucher to use at any of the event’s food trucks. An hourly shuttle bus will run continuously from BBC to MMC to facilitate transportation from BBC.
To register for these events and more information on Juneteenth, visit DEI.FIU.EDU/Juneteenth.