Our Juneteenth Celebration …

June 17, 2021

Faculty, Staff and Students,

As we have said over the past several weeks, our world feels a bit different now.

With the progress we have made in getting vaccinated, in following our mandates and maintaining discipline, we are seeing some of the fruits of that labor: Our businesses are back to 100 percent capacity, our students are planning to return for a “normal” fall semester and it seems as though we have been able to take the first steps to return to our lives.

Yet, as we have also previously noted in this space, there is more to be done. We must continue to work to achieve our goals.

I cannot help but notice a similarity between this and our Juneteenth Celebration, which occurs Saturday June 19, but which we at UK are observing as an official holiday for the first time on Friday, June 18.

Last year at this time, President Capilouto announced to our Board of Trustees that we would celebrate this holiday, saying “June 19th is a celebration of freedom. And it is a reminder that attempts to bring equality to all people have so often been met with opposition. It is our responsibility to make sure we do all that we can to conquer each barrier. I hope it will become a moment to pause, to reflect, and a time that compels our community to act.”

June 19 marks the day in 1865 when enslaved Texans learned they were free, the last remaining enslaved African Americans in the old Confederacy. It occurred more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in the Southern states in the heart of the Civil War.

It is a reminder that change, while inevitable, can be an excruciatingly slow process.

And as we celebrate, we must also remember there is more to be done. We must continue to work to achieve our goals of equity and inclusivity.

This year, as we commemorate Juneteenth, we call your attention to the historical legacy of the day. This is a celebration of resilience.

As Dr. Capilouto has said, we must ask ourselves a series of questions:

  • How do we inoculate ourselves against hate?
  • How do we create a vaccine to dismantle racism?
  • Are we willing to do more than promote and proclaim … Are we willing to act and change?

These are the questions I ask you to consider on this celebration day.

Further, let us follow the lead of our President and act. Whether that means teaching, questioning or supporting, let us not stand idly by. While it is true we have made progress, we must continue to remember our own history and act to initiate change.

Yes, we can be proud of what we have accomplished. But there is still much to be done.