Credit: gandur tamam, iStock.

Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Black Independence Day… These are some of the names for Juneteenth, which became a federal holiday in 2021. June 19 commemorates the date that word of freedom finally came, in 1865, to enslaved Black people in Texas, where Confederate rule still allowed and condoned slavery, despite President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation more than two years before. This year, Juneteenth falls on a Wednesday — government offices will be closed, as will the CSUN campus. 

Juneteenth long has been celebrated in African American communities. Now, larger Juneteenth festivals featuring music and food are becoming popular and taking place all over Los Angeles and throughout the country. Cedric Hackett, professor of Africana studies and faculty representative for CSUN Athletics, said his discussions with students about Juneteenth always go beyond the celebrations, to remind them of what came before. 

“I talk about lynching and some of the things we had to endure, in terms of being chattel, slaves,” Hackett said. “I talk about those things in the most raw fashion, and talk about why we celebrate, why we feast, why we continue to pray, because [for our ancestors] that was the only mechanism for survival, in terms of the psyche.” 

This year, more than two dozen CSUN faculty and administration members along with students will attend the second-annual California State University Juneteenth Symposium, hosted by Sacramento State University, which recently was announced as the home of the statewide office for Black student success. This year’s symposium, scheduled for June 13-14, will focus on preserving African American culture and promoting the anti-racism work taking place throughout the CSU. 

“It’ll be a lot of information sharing in terms of what campuses are doing to honor and preserve those histories,” said Hackett. “And obviously, CSUN is one campus that has a rich history of activism and social change.” 

Hackett noted the work of 97-year-old Opal Lee, a Texas native and retired teacher and counselor who worked tirelessly to make Juneteenth a federal holiday — her efforts included walking hundreds of miles at the age of 89 to raise awareness about her cause. Hackett said he will continue to honor the Juneteenth holiday and Black History Month as opportunities to teach. 

“I consider myself a torchbearer,” Hackett said, “and you know the job is really to share the information — so it doesn’t get buried somewhere.” 

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