Juneteenth Celebration

Juneteenth celebrations are also days for measuring how far we have come, where we are, and what remains to be done. They are vivid, etching moments for juxtaposing slavery and freedom on the one hand against economic, social, educational and political progress in this country on the other hand.

This week, as we celebrate Juneteenth Day, and as we remember George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, and other African Americans who have experienced police brutality, ugliness, inequality and violence, let us recognize, as faithfully as we can, that  Black Americans count and are owed human dignity and standing in community. Therefore, every time we have a moment to uplift humanity, we should do so, passing along beautiful stories and actions that ignite and have an extraordinary impact on other people in edifying ways. This is where we go from here in solidarity with our sisters and brothers at Indiana University, and beyond, who are fighting keenly for justice, fair play and equality. One of the most exquisite things about Juneteenth Day is that it is a precious opportunity for Blacks to tell their human stories. Blacks are like African griots; we are storytellers—we tell stories that appeal ultimately to generations and generations and generations. 

Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe writes movingly, “It is the storyteller who makes us what we are, who creates history. The storyteller creates the memory that the survivors must have—otherwise, their surviving would have no meaning.” So, on the eve of Juneteenth Day, at Indiana University, what story do we wish tell to generations and generations and generations?  

In the powerful words of philosopher Martha Nussbaum, “Being human means accepting promises from other people and trusting that other people will be good to you.” This CAN happen to generations and generations and generations!