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A Juneteenth Reflection

Dear Members of the Loyola Community,

This weekend, our nation, our state, and our community mark Juneteenth (June + Nineteenth), a date that has long been commemorated in the Black community but has only recently received more national attention in the past few years. Last year, U.S. President Joe Biden and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan designated Juneteenth as a holiday, and Loyola has added Juneteenth as a University holiday to allow our community to reflect on the impact of slavery in U.S. history and to commemorate the emancipation of the last enslaved African Americans in the United States. On June 19, 1865, nearly 250,000 African Americans were still enslaved when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, although President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863. This day is indeed a critical part of our American history.

This holiday, also known as “Freedom Day” or “Jubilee Day” in the Black community, allows us not only an opportunity to reflect on the struggles to freedom that these enslaved people experienced, but also gives us space to recognize their resilience and the many contributions of these African Americans and their descendants to our country and to our world.

And, on many levels, the struggle continues. As a Jesuit, Catholic university, we are also striving to live out our mission by working to eliminate vestiges of oppression. Here at Loyola, we have a task force that is investigating and working to identify Loyola’s historical relationship to slavery through the Universities Studying Slavery project, so we can understand this relationship, address its ongoing legacies, and move forward together as a community.

Today, our nation continues to experience acts of violence that are embedded in racism and hatred. It can feel that the work we do here does not have a significant impact. Each of us does have a role to play in working for justice, however. I encourage you to take time during the long weekend to pause and consider the lasting, damaging impact of slavery on our nation—and to consider the steps we can take to become a more inclusive campus and a more just world.

Onward and Upward, 

Rodney L. Parker, Ph.D.

Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer