Juneteenth - a time for learning, reflection: June 19, 2020

To the Eastern Michigan University community:

There is no more important day to show support for the Black community than Juneteenth. Juneteenth recognizes and celebrates the day that slavery was abolished in Texas on June 19, 1865. The deep challenges and the important dialogue underway across our nation and here in our community about racial inequality and social justice makes this a unique time in history, especially as we celebrate June 19.

While Juneteenth is a celebration of emancipation, we know that on our campus and throughout society, we have much more work to do. Eastern Michigan University is committed to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion on our campus but, more importantly, to also using our role as a public institution of higher learning to challenge institutional racism at all levels of society, including here at EMU. This commitment is part of our history and our mission, and it will be part of our future.

I encourage everyone in our campus community to take some time today to reflect, listen, learn and acknowledge the history, sacrifices, and achievements of Black citizens and the current actions we all must take to create meaningful and lasting change.

Professor Toni Pressley-Sanon, in her powerful essay "Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired," urged everyone to read and offered the following resources: 

  • We Speak for Ourselves: A Word from Forgotten Black America by D. Watkins
  • So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele
  • Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation by Rev. angel Kyodo Williams, Lama Rod Owens with Jasmine Syedullah
  • We Can’t Breathe by Jabari Asim
  • Breathe: A Letter to My Sons by Imani Perry
  • Back To Black: Retelling Black Radicalism for the 21st Century by Kehinde Andrews
  • Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the 21st Century by Barbara Ransby
  • Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? by Mumia Abu Jamal
  • Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living with Fearlessness and Grace by Rev. angel Kyodo Williams
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-nehisi Coates
  • Claudia Rankine, “The Condition of Black Life is One of Mourning” New York Times
  • Zenobia Jeffries Warfield, "Why We keep Talking About Racism” Yes! Magazine 

I hope you will take some time to heed Dr. Pressley-Sanon's recommendation to read one of these books or articles, and find other meaningful ways to observe this important day in our nation's history. Most importantly, make each day one in which you may seek ways to address racism and social justice in your community and beyond.

James Smith, Ph.D.