“Juneteenth is a holiday for everyone,” says Lita Little Giddins, assistant dean for Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion in the College of Family, Home, & Social Sciences. “As long as it is a fight that involves humanity, we are all included.”
Taking that sentiment to heart, students on the college’s Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion (DCI) committee set up an opportunity for the campus community to celebrate the holiday on the afternoon June 21. The group aimed to educate others on the meaning of Juneteenth and the symbols on the Juneteenth flag, and shared red velvet cookies.
“The majority of [passerbys] had a basic understanding of what Juneteenth is,” says Kame’e Parker, a junior from Honolulu majoring in family life and a member of the DCI committee. But she was happy to share more details. “Our history textbooks don’t teach us about marginalized groups, or if they do they skim over it. If textbooks aren’t putting a focus on these events, we need to put a focus on educating ourselves and others about these events.” In addition to details about the holiday, students shared information about rooting out more subtle forms of racism or exclusion, such as microaggressive behavior.
As for how the holiday is traditionally celebrated, Giddins explains that in the South, many people wore their Sunday best. In other states, people began to wear clothing that is significant to their cultural heritage if they know which African tribe they originate from. Many people eat red-colored food because red symbolizes loyalty, power, and the blood that was shed during enslavement. The symbolism highlights the triumph of African Americans as they were officially liberated from slavery.
Finally, Juneteenth brings to light the ongoing struggle of inclusion that African Americans feel and how we all need to be more inclusive in our communities.
“Right now, we will inform people about Juneteenth. But I hope to one day reach a point when people already know the significance so we can simply celebrate together. After all, Juneteenth is a celebration at its core of inclusion and community,” says Giddins.
Find more resources on race from the Diversity, Collaboration, and Inclusion committee.