As thousands of proud family members and friends stood and applauded the more than 6,400 Syracuse University students who had their degrees conferred inside the JMA Wireless Dome for this year’s Commencement ceremony, their thoughts were on celebrating this momentous…
Commemorating Juneteenth National Independence Day
Dear Syracuse University Campus Community:
I am so honored that one of my first official campuswide messages is to commemorate the Juneteenth National Independence Day, which will be acknowledged on Monday, June 20, 2022. I am especially proud that Syracuse University began celebrating this important day in our history prior to it being a federally recognized holiday.
The origins and recognition of Juneteenth are significant to our campus and our nation. It was not until June 19, 1865, two years after the emancipation of enslaved people was issued on Jan. 1, 1863, that a Union U.S. Army general proclaimed the freedom of enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas. The Juneteenth holiday is not only a cause for commemoration but also a time to reckon with our country’s history and its impact on the African American community and Black people. In keeping with our tradition, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, in partnership with Syracuse University Libraries, offers this set of resources that provides education regarding the significance of Juneteenth. Please take time to engage with this information and feel free to share any reflections or questions with me. I also encourage you to attend the various events in the community, including the Syracuse Juneteenth Festival, which features women’s basketball coach Felisha Legette-Jack as one of two grand marshals during Saturday’s parade, and Juneteenth Free Community Day at the Everson Museum, which will include Sharif Bey, an associate professor of studio arts in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, leading a gallery tour of his exhibition.
On our campus, we benefit from having so many individuals with backgrounds that are rich in diversity and the intersectionalities within, which helps to ensure our collective efforts are inclusive and that everyone is represented in the outcomes of our work. A highlight of my first weeks here has been my introduction to 119 Euclid, a space on campus that celebrates Black students and culture, and affirms, celebrates and amplifies the voices and experiences of the African diaspora. The presence of such spaces as 119 Euclid is essential to building community, and critical to student retention and our University’s overall success. Some other such spaces include the Community Folk Art Center, Intercultural Collective, La Casita Cultural Center, the Department of African American Studies and the Latino-Latin American studies program.
Another highlight has been my initial engagement with campus members. I am invigorated by the urgency and desire that has been expressed to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) work that is substantive and transformative. To that end, I would like to share a few of my immediate priorities:
- Community-building across campus. Our recent campus climate survey indicated a need to build community—particularly among those from minoritized communities. We will host gatherings throughout the year to help foster a culture of belonging and inclusion.
- Ongoing communication. The Office of Diversity and Inclusion will send quarterly newsletters and host in-person engagement opportunities to share updates on DEIA initiatives and increase information exchange.
- Address the goals outlined in the five-year strategic DEIA plan. I will work with DEIA leaders and colleagues to identify short- and long-term projects; streamline DEIA efforts across schools, colleges and administrative units; and implement initiatives beginning this year.
Juneteenth is one of several opportunities for us to recommit to our shared endeavor of becoming a community that is truly welcoming to all. I understand and take very seriously my responsibility to facilitate these efforts with empathy, courage and intention. I look forward to working with you and our community partners to act on these key priorities.
Mary Grace A. Almandrez, Ed.D.
Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion