Campus Celebrates Juneteenth

woman with drumThe sound of drums could be heard across campus Friday, June 19, to celebrate this year’s Juneteenth—the first year the day is recognized as a national holiday.

Led by Nicole Willams of Rhythm to You, a local musician, educator and activist, the Saint Mary’s community came together to drum, dance and lift their voices in celebration of the date that marks the end of slavery in the United States. Williams shared her African drumming skills with the group and prompted reflection on the importance of the day. She wove messages of unity throughout each of the movement and drumming exercises.

In one exercise, she asked participants to extend their hands to the person’s drum on their right and left sides as the group drummed together. The circle of sound grew, signifying the importance of extending our hands to our neighbors to increase the positive change we can have as a community as we continue the work for justice and human dignity.

Mona Bowe, vice president of enrollment management, replied to one of Williams’ questions about which instrument best describes issues of human dignity and race. “The voice,” she said. “We can speak up for those who don’t have voices, or can’t be heard.” Williams added that we can all be instruments of change with our voices.

This year’s celebration was especially meaningful as President Joe Biden signed a bill establishing Juneteenth, the date marking the end of slavery in the United States, as a federal holiday. Juneteenth National Independence Day is the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1983.

Saint Mary’s will host a Juneteenth celebration every year, said Redgina Hill, Ph.D., executive director of Inclusion & Equity. “This is an event that commits us as a campus of inclusivity and allows us to join the national community in celebration.” Read more here.

The event was sponsored by the Office of Inclusion & Equity, the Office of Multicultural & International Student Services, the Center for Women's Intercultural Leadership, and the Division for Mission. 

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