University’s Black Alumni Society brings community together to celebrate Juneteenth

By Ashley A. Williams

University’s Black Alumni Society brings community together to celebrate Juneteenth

By Ashley A. Williams
Dozens of people turned out for the second annual, and first online, event to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States.

More than 150 people gathered online Friday evening to commemorate Juneteenth, a holiday which marks the day—June 19, 1865—that enslaved black Texans were made aware of their freedom and Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was finally enforced in that state.    

Although not recognized by the federal government, the holiday has since become widely celebrated by African Americans and many others and is hailed in some states. Recent widespread protests against police brutality and systemic racism have drawn more awareness to the date. 

Hosted by the University’s Black Alumni Society, the family-friendly webinar featured music, singing of the Black National Anthem led by alumna and jazz and soul singer Alexandra Jackson, a fashion show contest, and a virtual watch party of the television show “black-ish.” In addition, black history trivia and a discussion led by the “13th Floor” podcast hosts and University alumni Kerrol Codallo and Brett Jones were also included. 

The society’s executive board members stated that it was important to create a gathering space for the community and to provide thought-provoking dialogue and introspection. Graduates from the 1960s to the recent graduating class of 2020 attended, along with their family and friends. Troy Bell, the first University of Miami African American elected at-large as the student body president in 1985, also attended. 

“As students at the University of Miami, whether it was forums, parties, or advocacy events, we sought to be inclusive and educational,” said Wendy Dixon-DuBois, president of the University’s Black Alumni Society. “I am thankful to UM for their full support. I look forward to seeing how we will continue to work together on the lifelong diversity, equity, and inclusion journey.” 

While still celebrating the history of the day, the society also wanted to use Juneteenth as a platform for change. During the discussion portion of the evening, participants shared their views on a range of topics—from systemic racism to dealing with issues in the workplace. They also provided tips on building economic power within the community. 

“We have to be active to be able to affect the change that we want to see in our lives,” said Jones, who received his bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2009. “We’re taking time to educate not only ourselves but our children on what Juneteenth means.” 

This year’s event brought reflection, uplifting dialogues, and cultural celebration as many are still mourning the loss of black lives lost to police brutality. In the midst of global protests, Dixon-Dubois said hope brings comfort and joy. 

“The biggest thing I want everybody to think about is that we cannot put the onus of advancing our people on one person, one institution, one president,” Codallo said. “It doesn’t work that way. It’s going to take us advancing the cause, each of us individually, to make things happen. Starting today, go out and individually lead until you get a compelling reason to be led by someone else.”