Dear Members of the George Washington University Community,
This weekend, the nation and our community will celebrate Juneteenth—recognized for the day, on June 19, 1865, that Black people who remained enslaved in Galveston, Texas, learned of their freedom. It was more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
While Juneteenth has long been celebrated, some in our community may only recently be aware of it after it became a federal and university holiday last year. I am grateful that we have this time to pause and reflect on this day together.
This is an important moment to consider more deeply the history, contributions, and progress achieved by members of the Black community. It also is a moment to demonstrate through our words and actions that, although society has made progress toward combating anti-Blackness, there is more to be done. There are still many troubling incidents of racism, bias, and discrimination that members of the Black community encounter each day. Sadly, we continue to witness horrific instances of violence targeting the Black community, including recently in Buffalo, New York. Even during a time of celebration on Juneteenth, these terrible incidents leave many carrying the heavy weight of sadness, fear, and anger.
At our university, I am proud of those working actively to support one another and advance equity and inclusion for all, especially members of the Black community. Many are contributing to the Diversity Program Review; participating in diversity, equity, and inclusion councils; and leading antiracist mentorship programs, service activities, and programming within our schools, colleges, and offices. Here in Washington, we also are fortunate to have access to the historic National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Juneteenth weekend display of the Emancipation Proclamation at the National Archives. These valuable resources, and our university’s academic mission, help inform our understanding of Black history and enable us to use this knowledge to dismantle systemic racism and fight anti-Blackness.
Not only on Juneteenth, but also every day, I hope we all will take actions that contribute to teaching, researching, or service that create a supportive, more equitable, and antiracist environment on our campuses and beyond.
Mark S. Wrighton