[June 18, 2021 – Parker, CO]
Dear RVU family,
As we continue on our journey and understanding around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, I wanted to take a moment to think about Juneteenth. I have heard about Juneteenth, and had some vague notion as to what it was, but was never taught about it in school, even as a political science major in college. One of the benefits that has come out of the tragedy of systemic racism caught on cell phones and body-cams in recent years is that it has provided me, and hopefully each of us, with the opportunity to learn.
Over the past few days I have heard about Juneteenth on the radio, tv news, and have read many articles about it. For those of you, who like me, didn’t know much about it – here is a brief synopsis. During the Civil War, and especially after the emancipation proclamation of 1863, many southerners sought to evade following the order by moving enslaved people to Texas. In the summer of 1865, Union troops arrived in Galveston and freed more than 250,000 black Americans. All enslaved people in American were legally freed in December of 1865 with the passing of the 13th amendment.
Just yesterday, President Biden signed the law making Juneteenth a national holiday, representing the day that all Americans were truly free. It passed the Senate unanimously and it passed the House of Representatives with only 14 votes against. In this era of partisan fighting, nearly everyone agreed on this.
Juneteenth not only is cause for celebration. It is also a time to reflect on the systemic inequities that still exist. Toward that end, the RVU Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Council (DEIAC) met this week to continue our review of the recommendations from the four diversity task forces. At our next meeting, in two weeks we will be welcoming three new members of the Advisory Committee, Sarah Neguse, MS, PA-C representing the faculty, and Melissa Jimenez and Tanner Morris Roberts representing the students. The DEIAC will soon announce the steps we are taking to make RVU a more diverse, equitable and inclusive university.
It is important to note the intersectionality that Juneteenth falls within Pride month. We must note that we should inclusively honor, acknowledge and/or celebrate our holidays, and days and months of commemoration. Each is an opportunity for us to learn about a community, people, or culture; to have a conversation with someone we might otherwise not speak with about meaningful things. For those who may feel left out because there is no holiday, month, or day for their own affinity or identity group, please know two things – you are welcome to elevate attention to your group – I am curious by nature, so tell me, and feel welcome in every celebration, acknowledgement and commemoration. Sometime practicing inclusivity involves taking a step towards others.
Finally, as we celebrate the first national Juneteenth holiday, take a moment to reflect on what it means to truly be a free people, the rights and responsibilities that this social contract implies, and whether we are fulfilling the promise of the dream of freedom.
David Forstein, DO, FACOOG