This year’s Juneteenth festivities on the Doheny Campus were co-sponsored by the Bernadette Gonzaque Robert Center for Equity, Diversity and Justice, and were open to the Mount community and its guests.
Krishauna Hines-Gaither, PhD, vice president for equity, diversity and justice, opened the proceedings with a brief history on Juneteenth, which is also referred to as Freedom Day, Emancipation Day or Jubilee Day. On June 19, 1865, enslaved Africans in Galveston, Texas, were finally made aware of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation from January 1, 1863, which had granted them their freedom when General Granger read the official ruling in Order No. 3.
The Mount’s Juneteenth festivities not only served as a celebration of a historic event but a lesson in the roots of present-day expressions of marginalization and social injustice. The Mount works to highlight such educational themes not only directly to members of its community but to the youngest generation of girls. Shero’s Rise, an organization founded by Sonali Perera Bridges ‘98 that serves girls in underserved communities, was a co-sponsor of the event, which was one of the highlights of a week-long camp hosted by the University for its members.
Other youngsters from Pops Club, a support program for children of incarcerated parents, attended the gathering. “The Juneteenth event was a wonderful space to bring family and community together to educate us all about the history of Juneteenth and its symbolism,” says psychology professor Angela Benveniste ’09, DSW, who serves on the board of directors of Pops Club. “All the children and adults were dancing; it really was a meaningful event. I'm grateful our children were able to be a part of it.”
While important to acknowledge the history of Juneteenth, it was also a day to enjoy the culture of the Black community and enjoy one another’s company. Attendees were treated to African drummers and dancers from African Soul International, a raffle of educational prizes, a photo booth, vendors and delicious gumbo. Everyone was also entertained by a vocal performance by Marsha Nickerson ’92, EdD, assistant professor in the BSN program, as well as music provided by DJ Services’ Michael Davis, a frequent entertainer at Mount events.
“This inaugural celebration culminated Mount students' and alumni's dreams,” said Nickerson. “There was a spirit of freedom and joy in the atmosphere that a historical shift had come to the university.”
“Our girls (from Shero’s Rise) were able to go and celebrate Juneteenth, to enjoy the moment,” said Bridges. “It was powerful to see them dance and be joyful and kind and considerate to one another. And for them to see others that looked like them was really important.”
Note: Click here for a video encapsulating the event.