Kent State Community Will Celebrate Juneteenth With a Jubilee of Fun Activities, History and Networking
The Student Multicultural Center (SMC) at Kent State University will commemorate Juneteenth with a community celebration that combines the rich history of Black Americans with an assortment of festivities and networking opportunities for local Black businesses.
The event, Juneteenth Jubilee, is being held on Friday, June 18, 2021, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Kent Student Center Ballroom. The original location was Risman Plaza, however, the event was moved due to inclement weather. And several Kent State students have been integral in planning the event.
“The event will include vendors, a live DJ, dancing and mingling with those in the Kent community,” said Kent State junior Kristyn Hibbett, a public relations major who helped plan the event. “We'll even have refreshments that symbolize important Juneteenth facts.”
On June 19, people across the country celebrate Juneteenth, the commemoration of the day in 1865 when enslaved Black Americans in Galveston, Texas, got the news that the Civil War had ended, and they were now free.
Slavery in states engaged in rebellion against the Union had ended a full two years before, when President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became official on Jan. 1, 1863. Slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution passed by Congress on Jan. 31, 1865.
Despite its origin in the southwest U.S., Juneteenth has been embraced by people across the country, including Kent State, where it is seen as a way to show support for Black and African American students.
“We support our students of color and specifically, we ensure that our Black and African American students know the institution has support for their racial identities here at Kent State University,” said Michael Daniels, director of the SMC. “The history of the Student Multicultural Center lends itself to uphold celebrations that honor African, Black, and African American traditions and history. The staff in the SMC believe in the liberation of all oppressed people and we are honored to recognize the holidays that recognize the liberation of Black Americans.”
Ariana Bliss, a Kent State senior who also worked on preparations for Juneteenth Jubilee, said commemorating Juneteenth on campus goes along with the mission of the SMC.
“It is important for the SMC to commemorate Juneteenth because our mission is to be a resource and safe space for our fellow students that are African American,” said Bliss, a studio arts major. “Commemorating Juneteenth in a celebration allows the students and faculty to know that the SMC is invested in celebrating holidays and important dates that are for African American heritage and history. For the past few years that I have been at Kent, the SMC has been a hub of information, scholarship and family. Celebrating Juneteenth allows us to celebrate a holiday that is important in our history as a family.
In 1980, Texas began recognizing Juneteenth as an official state holiday, and to date a total of 47 states and the District of Columbia recognize the date as well. Recently, the U.S. Senate and House passed measures to recognize Juneteenth National Independence Day as a federal holiday. President Joe Biden signed the legislation on June 17, 2021.
Daniels agrees that Juneteenth should become a national holiday. “A lot of African American communities struggle to celebrate July 4 as Independence day because although that day marks the recognition of independence from Britain, of what we now know as the United States of America, it wasn’t until almost a century later that enslaved Black people in America were liberated,” Daniels said. “There needs to be more recognition by our entire nation of this historical day and celebration by our nation for the liberation of Black people in America.”
Kent State senior Gabrielle Blake, president of Black United Students (BUS) at Kent State who also worked on Juneteenth Jubilee, said a Juneteenth national holiday is in order to provide African Americans with an Independence Day they can identify with while acknowledging the atrocities of slavery.
“We have many national holidays that highlight stories of people that the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) community does not identify with (i.e., Christopher Columbus),” said Blake, a paralegal major. “Juneteenth should be a national holiday, that way, African Americans can have an actual Independence day. In addition, people who do not identify as Black can understand the depths of what chattel slavery was and for the United States government to recognize that America is not perfect. Still, with the right people in power, change can happen.”