Reflections on Juneteenth

Dear campus community,

Tomorrow is Juneteenth, a day when Black and African American families and communities have for many years celebrated their culture, strength and perseverance by commemorating the end of slavery in America. The day became a national holiday this week, following a unanimous Senate vote, bill passage by the House and President Biden’s signature. This is a momentous and long-overdue occasion.

While we celebrate and acknowledge this historic legislation and formal recognition of this day’s significance, we also must remember that Juneteenth serves as a stark reminder of our nation’s racist past and the inequities that still remain.

Moving forward, my hope is that the annual Juneteenth holiday will serve as a moment of deep reflection for all Americans and an opportunity to consider and examine the ways in which structural inequities exist to this day. Inequalities and barriers related to voting rights, hiring practices, education, housing, healthcare and other matters, for example, are still embedded in public policy and must be addressed.

There are many faculty members, staff and students here at San José State who are fully engaged in this ongoing work, and I am grateful for their leadership. Next week I will offer an update on our campus’s actions to address systemic racism and the efforts we have undertaken this past year to make San José State an anti-racist, multicultural institution of higher education. 

I encourage members of the SJSU community to take part in community, faith-based or private family gatherings that honor and celebrate Juneteenth. Many organizations, including the National Museum of African American History & Culture and, locally, Santa Clara County’s African American Community Service Agency, offer calendar listings and ways to celebrate. In addition, the Instagram feed from SJSU’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion offers a number of Juneteenth resources and information.

Establishment of Juneteenth as a national holiday is a step in the right direction, but the urgent need for racial justice and for systemic change on anti-Black racism remains. As that work continues, please join me in acknowledging Juneteenth as a time for celebration, deep reflection and recognition of the enduring resiliency and richness of our Black and African American communities. 


Dr. Mary A. Papazian