| Sarah Heinonen
LONGMEADOW – Juneteenth is a day of deep meaning to many. It is a day of remembrance of centuries of suffering and a celebration of freedom from that same suffering. This year, Bay Path University’s Office of Multicultural Affairs and Springfield Technical Community College will partner to mark Juneteenth with a day of songs, games, stories and food.
Juneteenth is a portmanteau of June 19, the date in 1865 when enslaved people in Galveston, TX were informed that the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed, declaring them free. This date is widely recognized as the end of legal slavery in the United States and is also known as Black Independence Day and Emancipation Day.
Although the date has been celebrated since 1866, it was not until 2021 that President Joe Biden declared Juneteenth to be a federal holiday.
The Juneteenth Community Celebration will be hosted at Bay Path’s Longmeadow campus on June 11, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The free, outdoor event will feature interactive activities, including a read-aloud of the children’s book, “Juneteenth Jamboree” by Carole Boston Weatherford, live musical performances by the Women of Faith Ensemble and vocalist Nekita Waller, Black-owned businesses and vendors, community resources, lawn games and kid-friendly activities. The community is welcome, and a free lunch is available for the first 100 registered guests.
Elizabeth Cardona, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, explained the purpose behind the event. “There’s history that our students weren’t aware of,” she said of the impact of Black culture and communities, adding that the organizers wanted to mark the anniversary in a way, “that was joyful, that would really make people aware of Black culture.”
The theme of the celebration is “Voices of Freedom.” Cardona said Bay Path is committed to giving students the opportunity to share their stories. “We have such a rich Black community,” she said, noting that alumni will be returning for the celebration and wants, “the community to see this as an opportunity to come and share and network.”
Cardona said there is still a lot of work to be done in educating the wider community about history that has been largely whitewashed or hidden in the past. “We cannot function by continually repeating the narrative that has been told to us,” she said. Rather, awareness and education can allow for a fuller understanding of America, historically and today.
“As an institution of higher education, it’s important that we bring our community together to learn about the significance of Juneteenth, and to acknowledge the struggle our nation still faces with racism and how we, as a collective, can move forward,” shared Cardona, “But it’s also really important that we bring our community – both our internal community and those of our surrounding neighborhoods, towns, and organizations – together to celebrate the day that signifies the end of slavery in our country.”
She added, “That’s what makes Bay Path unique, intentionally bringing communities together,” and “bringing lived experiences along.”
For more information on the Juneteenth Community Celebration and to register for lunch, please visit baypath.edu/juneteenth.