A Message on Juneteenth

TO: The Gonzaga Community
FROM: Robin Kelley, Chief Diversity Officer
SUBJ: Juneteenth
DATE: June 16, 2022

Juneteenth marks the day -- June 19, 1865 -- when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger informed enslaved Black/African Americans in Galveston, Texas, that the Civil War had ended two months prior and that they were free from enslavement.

Granger read aloud the Emancipation Proclamation, which effectively ended slavery. His notification was two and a half years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, so while Juneteenth does not commemorate the end of slavery, it marks the end of slavery for all the enslaved. As civil rights icon and voting rights pioneer Fannie Lou Hamer said, "Nobody's free until everybody's free."

Texans first celebrated Juneteenth beginning in 1866 with community-focused events, including cookouts, rodeos, parades, vigils and prayer gatherings, art, musical performances, and historical and cultural readings. Over the years, communities across the nation developed additional traditions such as Miss Juneteenth pageants, barbecues, street fairs, voter registration drives, and justice marches. At least 46 states observe and celebrate Juneteenth.

Last year (2021), Juneteenth became the 11th holiday recognized by the federal government and Gov. Jay Inslee declared Juneteenth a state holiday. Juneteenth is officially Sunday, June 19. This year, Gonzaga University has designated Juneteenth as a holiday for our community recognized on Monday, June 20. Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the end of slavery in the United States.

Juneteenth is a time to celebrate the freedom of all Black/African Americans from enslavement. It is also a time to remember the contributions of Black/African Americans and the struggle for racial equity and racial justice throughout our nation's history.

Juneteenth represents the acknowledgment and celebration of Black/African American history as American history. Henry Louis Gates's article “What Is Juneteenth?” highlights this effort.

Acknowledging a shared history not exclusionary of the experiences of Black/African Americans and other marginalized individuals allows for the respect of the human dignity of all and an opportunity to create a more authentic American narrative that affirms that Black/African Americans are seen, heard, and valued.

A prayer for Juneteenth
We pray, O Lord, for change.
Jesus, you revealed God through your wise words and loving deeds,
and we encounter you still today in the faces of those whom society has pushed to the margins.
Guide us, through the love you revealed,
to establish the justice you proclaimed,
that all peoples might dwell in harmony and peace,
united by that one love that binds us to each other, and to you.
And most of all, Lord, change our routine worship and work into genuine encounter with you and our better selves so that our lives will be changed for the good of all.

-The Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Black Catholic ministry

Gonzaga University has been intentional in its commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice as these principles are grounded in our Catholic, Jesuit identity. Let us embrace the lived experiences of the formerly enslaved and Black/African Americans today and do our part to ensure a university climate that lives up to our mission and values, and advances a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and supportive culture of belonging. As we commemorate and acknowledge Juneteenth, we affirm the commitments of our university.

I invite everyone in the GU community to take time this Juneteenth to learn, celebrate, and reflect upon how we can continue to move towards a more racially just future.

Community events, programs, and resources commemorating Juneteenth can be found here