June 13, 2023

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

Juneteenth is our newest federal holiday, formally recognized in 2021, and many of us may still be exploring how best to commemorate this date. The University will be closed in observance of Juneteenth National Independence Day on the day itself, Monday, June 19. Cleveland, as a richly diverse city, has already begun celebrating the holiday and will be continuing events in the days to come. 

Freedom Fest, one of the city’s largest celebrations, will be this weekend right in the heart of downtown. Before Freedom Fest kicks off, this Friday will be our next Courageous Conversations event, which will be an in-person discussion about the African American community followed by a campus gathering with food, games and music. You can find details for these and other Juneteenth events on the Division of Campus Engagement, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’s website. For those of us able to spend time away from the office and classes, I hope you will take advantage of these events to embrace African American culture and learn more about the history of Juneteenth.

Although Juneteenth is our nation’s oldest commemoration of the end to the practice of slavery in the United States, it took decades of advocacy for the date to become a federal holiday. Opal Lee, who will turn 97 this October and is known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” gained national attention with her annual walks to advocate for the holiday. Each of her walks were precisely two and a half miles long in recognition of the two and a half years it took for Texas to free the nation’s last group of enslaved people after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

After years of fighting for national awareness of Juneteenth, Lee was in attendance as an honored guest when President Biden signed the bill that created this new holiday. Earlier this month, Lee was honored in Philadelphia for her advocacy and spoke these poignant words regarding the holiday: “We tried so hard to show that freedom is for everyone. Not just for Texans, not just for Black people, but freedom is for everyone.”

I believe this is a powerful sentiment to consider as we all, each in our own way, commemorate this Juneteenth.

Laura Bloomberg, PhD
© 2023 Cleveland State University, 2121 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115-2215 PH: 216.687.2000
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