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Juneteenth: A Day of Reflection

Dr. Joseph Savoie -- Thu, 06/10/2021 - 12:00am

Dear students, faculty and staff members,

Starting this year and continuing annually, we will observe Juneteenth as a University holiday.

Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. It marks the day – June 19, 1865 – that enslaved Black people living in Galveston, Texas, learned of their freedom.

June 19 falls on a Saturday this year, but the University has set aside Friday, June 18, to honor Juneteenth. Campus will be closed, and classes will not be held.

At noon on June 19, the Stephens Hall chimes and the Victory Bell at Cajun Field will each ring 19 times in observance. 

Juneteenth is a day of reflection, and I’d like to ask everyone to dedicate some time to thinking about the evolving – and sometimes elusive – nature of freedom in our nation.

The United States is not perfect, but each of us has a responsibility to work to achieve, as the Constitution entreats us to, a “more perfect union,” where intolerance has no place, where equality has no bounds and where justice plays no favorites.

Juneteenth offers an opportunity for the University to affirm its commitment to building such a community. 

The Strategic Plan for Inclusive Excellence guides our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. I want to encourage you to read the plan and consider ways you can help achieve its goal to foster a campus environment that finds strength in difference and where everyone is welcomed and valued.

The University’s search for solutions includes providing spaces where open dialogue can lead to informed action. An event that’s being held on campus the same week as Juneteenth is an example of this engagement.

UL Lafayette is proud to host the inaugural Universities of Louisiana Black Male Summit on Thursday, June 17. Its focus is enhancing success among Black male students, faculty and staff members in higher education.

There’s still time to register. You can do so here.

At 3 p.m. on June 17, as the summit draws to a close and in observance of Juneteenth, the University invites you to continue the conversation in an informal setting. Ice cream and popsicles will be served in the Student Union Courtyard.

This is the first year the University will mark Juneteenth as an official holiday, but it is more than a “day off.” Rather, it is an opportunity to reflect on our shared history and on the barriers that separate us from the more equitable society we seek.


Dr. Joseph Savoie