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Sharing history and culture in pursuit of true equality

First live Juneteenth celebration held at the Mount since it became a federal holiday

July 7, 2022

 

Krishauna HInes-Gaither, PhD, vice president of equity, diversity and justice, welcomed participants to the Mount's first in-person celebration of Juneteenth since it became a federal holiday. In addition to celebrating with music, dance, food, and community, Hines-Gaither ensured that participants reflected on the history of Juneteenth and its symbolism.
Krishauna HInes-Gaither, PhD, vice president of equity, diversity and justice, welcomed participants to the Mount's first in-person celebration of Juneteenth since it became a federal holiday. In addition to celebrating with music, dance, food, and community, Hines-Gaither ensured that participants reflected on the history of Juneteenth and its symbolism.

This year’s Juneteenth festivities on the Doheny Campus were co-sponsored by the Bernadette Gonzaque Robert Center for Equity, Diversity and Justice, and were open to the Mount community and its guests.

Krishauna Hines-Gaither, PhD, vice president for equity, diversity and justice, opened the proceedings with a brief history on Juneteenth, which is also referred to as Freedom Day, Emancipation Day or Jubilee Day. On June 19, 1865, enslaved Africans in Galveston, Texas, were finally made aware of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation from January 1, 1863, which had granted them their freedom when General Granger read the official ruling in Order No. 3. 

Angela Benveniste '09, DSW, professor of psychology, holds up an
Angela Benveniste '09, DSW, professor of psychology, holds up an "I Am Unstoppable" sign. In front and to the left of her are members of Pops Club, a support program for children of incarcerated parents. Benveniste serves of its board of directors. Crouching down on the right side to be on the same level as her children on either side of her is psychology graduate student Tamara Martinez.

The Mount’s Juneteenth festivities not only served as a celebration of a historic event but a lesson in the roots of present-day expressions of marginalization and social injustice. The Mount works to highlight such educational themes not only directly to members of its community but to the youngest generation of girls. Shero’s Rise, an organization founded by Sonali Perera Bridges ‘98 that serves girls in underserved communities, was a co-sponsor of the event, which was one of the highlights of a week-long camp hosted by the University for its members.

Other youngsters from Pops Club, a support program for children of incarcerated parents, attended the gathering. “The Juneteenth event was a wonderful space to bring family and community together to educate us all about the history of Juneteenth and its symbolism,” says psychology professor Angela Benveniste ’09, DSW, who serves on the board of directors of Pops Club. “All the children and adults were dancing; it really was a meaningful event. I'm grateful our children were able to be a part of it.” 

Attendees were treated to cultural music and dance performances by African Soul International. Afterwards, members could be seen mixing it up on the dance floor with a number of attendees who expressed themselves with rhythm.
Attendees were treated to cultural music and dance performances by African Soul International. Afterwards, members could be seen mixing it up on the dance floor with a number of attendees who expressed themselves with rhythm.

While important to acknowledge the history of Juneteenth, it was also a day to enjoy the culture of the Black community and enjoy one another’s company. Attendees were treated to African drummers and dancers from African Soul International, a raffle of educational prizes, a photo booth, vendors and delicious gumbo. Everyone was also entertained by a vocal performance by Marsha Nickerson ’92, EdD, associate professor in the BSN program, as well as music provided by DJ Services’ Michael Davis, a frequent entertainer at Mount events.

“This inaugural celebration culminated Mount students' and alumni's dreams,” said Nickerson. “There was a spirit of freedom and joy in the atmosphere that a historical shift had come to the university.”

“Our girls (from Shero’s Rise) were able to go and celebrate Juneteenth, to enjoy the moment,” said Bridges. “It was powerful to see them dance and be joyful and kind and considerate to one another. And for them to see others that looked like them was really important.”

 

Note: Click here for a video encapsulating the event.