Dear WSU Everett Community:
Today and this weekend we observe Juneteenth! Some of you already know that I am referring to the holiday long celebrated in African American communities as the day slavery finally ended in the United States.
Nearly two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, enslavers in Galveston, Texas continued to traffic in human bondage. It was not until June 19th, 1865, when Union soldiers forced them to comply with federal orders, that hundreds of thousands of enslaved Black people were finally free.
As a national holiday, I invite us all to mark this special day by celebrating the bravery, resilience, fortitude, courage and enduring hope that helped African Americans endure and survive. I encourage you to go beyond slavery to the many junctures in America’s past and present that have forced African Americans to step up, demand, and fight for basic, human rights.
It is a battle that continues to this day as black Americans are forced to still fight for equitable treatment in just about every aspect of life, including health care, education, housing and the criminal justice system.
Juneteenth is more than our newest holiday. It is a designated, intentional opportunity to reflect on American history and reaffirm our collective determination to wipe out every ounce of racist, disparate treatment in this country. We do it to honor the spirit of those who, while enslaved, built this nation. As WSU President Kirk Schulz and Provost Elizabeth Chilton noted here:
“Juneteenth presents us all with an opportunity to learn from history as we move forward to build the future. As Cougs, we must continue to educate ourselves, listen with humility, amplify the voices of the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) members of our campus community, and continuously work toward being better allies.”
Remembering our past, yes much of it an ugly blemish on our nation, will not turn us into victims. It will remind us that we are descended from victors who struggled, fought and overcame. We can, because they did.
Earlier this year, WSU hosted Seattle writer Ijeoma Oluo and I had the honor of moderating the discussion. I will leave you with one of the many gems shared by this noted thinker on race and social justice:
“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.“
Wishing you an inspired and productive Juneteenth.
Dr. Paul Pitre, Chancellor
Washington State University Everett