More than 100 staff, students and faculty gathered together in the Golden Eagle Ballroom at Cal State LA on June 15 to take part in a festive Juneteenth celebration hosted by Cal State LA’s Staff Working Group on Belonging, Community, and Diversity.
Juneteenth, observed on June 19, commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. It is the oldest known U.S. celebration of the abolition of slavery and marks the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learned they were free. The day is also known by other names such as Emancipation Day, Liberation Day, or Freedom Day.
The Staff Working Group on Belonging, Community, and Diversity, which formed last year following the CSU’s Inaugural Juneteenth Symposium, develops programs and initiatives in support of the university’s diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging efforts in collaboration with the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
The event featured a keynote address by David B. Green Jr., assistant professor in the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies in the College of Arts and Letters.
Green spoke about the history of Juneteenth and explored the nexus between the holiday and Black queer life in the present. His remarks were inspired by the work of Pauli Murray, a Black queer civil rights activist, lawyer, poet and author of Dark Testament, a 12-part epic poem that examines the history of enslavement.
“If Juneteenth is anything to Black queer people, then yes, it is the importance of history and the value of freedom,” Green said. “But more than anything it’s the continued fight, the continued quest for knowledge, the continued understanding that we are not done yet.”
“Juneteenth is a celebration,” Green added. “It is also a praxis. So now I say: Let’s get to work.”
Other speakers included Queen King, vice president for administration and CFO, who offered welcoming remarks, Staff Working Group co-chairs Isis Stansberry, associate dean of students, and Turi Daoust, director of change management and strategic initiatives, and other members of the Staff Working Group and its committees. The event also featured a trivia game about the history of Juneteenth.
Following the program, students, faculty, and staff spilled out onto the campus Main Walkway to enjoy lunch from local Black-owned food trucks, Hilford Jerk Kitchen and Wings N’ Waffles, to paint with local artist Darrell Mitchell, and to watch a performance by African Soul International, a nonprofit arts and education organization that specializes in the dances, rhythms, and cultures of Africa and Africans of the Diaspora.
The celebration comes during a historic year. For the first time in the history of the California State University system, Cal State LA and other CSU campuses are observing Juneteenth, Monday, June 19, as a paid holiday.
“As we celebrate the end of slavery in the U.S., we acknowledge and honor the generations who fought and sacrificed to bring this devastating chapter of our nation’s history to a final close,” Cal State LA President William A. Covino said. “Juneteenth reminds us that freedom is not free; that it takes work to answer the charge of the great poet and author Langston Hughes in his poem: Let America Be America Again. Every generation and each one of us must answer freedom’s call.”
# # #
California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 26,000 students and has more than 250,000 distinguished alumni.
Cal State LA is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center, Hydrogen Research and Fueling Facility, Billie Jean King Sports Complex and the TV, Film and Media Center. For more information, visit www.CalStateLA.edu.