Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

Dania Matos: Juneteenth is a catalyst for remembering our national commitments to freedom, liberty and equity

By Dania Matos

One June 19, 1865 — 157 years ago this Sunday — the announcement of the end of slavery reached Texas, the last place in the union to hear the news that all enslaved people in America “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” 

Today, the day is a holiday for UC Berkeley, so that students, staff and faculty can spend meaningful time away from their work and their studies to reflect — in solitude or with friends and family — on that moment, and the work that must still be done to undo — and redress — the enduring legacies of Black slavery, like systemic anti-Black violence, deep structural racism and persistent white supremacy. 

There is work to be done at all levels: our country, our communities, ourselves and our campus. Here at UC Berkeley, the values embodied in UC Berkeley’s Principles of Community are our guiding light to a “safe, caring and humane environment” where we can all thrive. I hope you visit our Juneteenth page or Berkeley News’ Racial Justice in America project to learn, celebrate and reflect on this day. 

For me, I’ll be spending this weekend reflecting on how we can use Juneteenth as a catalyst for helping to remember our national commitments to freedom, liberty and equity and implement practices (or structures to remake practices) and policies that advance these ideals.

I hope you too can bring that lens of discussion, consideration and co-creation to your conversations and thought this weekend and beyond. (Or build your life around it, like I have!) 

I encourage you to commemorate Juneteenth as a day of remembrance and reflection, a time to move beyond symbolic gestures in support of Black lives, and instead to genuinely reflect on what you can do to move the country and our campus toward its stated ideals of equity and justice.