UChicago graduate students organize series of events to commemorate Juneteenth

Events include June 19 keynote address from renowned activist, scholar Angela Davis

On June 19, 1865, Union Army soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, bringing with them news of the Emancipation Proclamation. Now known as Juneteenth, the day is recognized as a celebration of freedom—marking past struggles for liberty in the United States, as well as the struggles that still lie ahead.

This year, following the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, a group of University of Chicago graduate students have created a monthlong series of events to commemorate Juneteenth.

Organized by the UChicago Graduate Council, the Juneteenth programming will culminate on June 19 with a keynote address from renowned activist and scholar Angela Davis. The series will also include a range of educational sessions and workshops—open to all current UChicago students, faculty and staff—as well as events for Black students to share experiences, build community and celebrate each other.

“Amid a racial reckoning about the inequitable treatment of Black lives, the inaugural University of Chicago Juneteenth Commemoration is an opportunity for UChicago students to strengthen our community, to have allies further educate themselves and to channel our collective energy into much-needed action,” said graduate student Radhika Santhanagopalan, who conceived of the initiative and serves as vice president of diversity and inclusion for the Graduate Council.

“We are honored to host renowned activist and scholar Angela Davis, who will speak to us directly about how we as individuals can and must do our part to move the racial equity needle forward. It is time to overcome the inertia surrounding racial justice by better understanding the history, evolution and impact of where we are today.”

Santhanagopalan and the Graduate Council D&I committee were inspired to create this series after witnessing the widespread protests last summer, which focused not only on Floyd’s murder by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, but on the structural racism that has long persisted in American society. The programming—which begins with a May 27 discussion of reparations—is designed to educate and build allyship among members of the UChicago community, and to foster dialogue about intersecting Black identities.

The upcoming events are sponsored by the UChicago Graduate Council—for which Santhanagopalan oversees diversity and inclusion initiatives—in collaboration with the Black Grad Coalition and the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs. 

Events open to all current UChicago affiliates are listed below:

  • Thursday, May 27 — Juneteenth Celebration: Reparations—Past, Present & Future
  • Tuesday, June 1 — A History of Juneteenth, with Assoc. Prof. Adam Green
  • Tuesday, June 8 — Sharing Our Stories: The Black Graduate Experience at UChicago
  • Tuesday, June 15 — Allyship and Anti-racist Training
  • Saturday, June 19 — Juneteenth Keynote: A Conversation with Angela Davis

The Black@UC portion of the series will include a June 3 conversation and June 10 social for Black graduate students, and a June 17 open mic for Black students, alumni, faculty and staff. In addition, program organizers encourage members of the campus community to donate to Brave Space Alliance, a Black- and trans-led LGBTQ center based on the South Side of Chicago.

To learn more and register, visit the UC Juneteenth 2021 website.