GVSU staff member encourages community to recognize and celebrate Juneteenth

A graphic with a blue background and white text that reads: Juneteenth, Freedom Day.
Image Credit: Graphic by Bayleigh Ivan

Celebrating the annual holiday Juneteenth will be different this year for Takeelia Garrett and her son. Due to the global pandemic, they will be participating in a celebration held virtually by ExperienceGR. 

Juneteenth is a holiday that brings people together to celebrate community, listen to speakers, sing and enjoy food. Garrett, the student ombuds and co-chair of the Black Faculty and Staff Association at Grand Valley, said this year the celebration means even more.

“People are celebrating because we’re making things happen,” she said. “George Floyd is a name that sparked feelings of activism and the activism is making a change.”

Juneteenth commemorates the freedom of enslaved people in Texas on June 19, 1865 — two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Texas was the last state in the Confederacy to receive word that the Civil War had ended.

In addition to the ExperienceGR virtual gathering, there are a number of community gatherings planned in Grand Rapids. Garrett invites members of the GVSU community to join in celebrating the holiday.

“Our entire community can come together and celebrate everyone," she said. “It’s a celebration that says we’re against racial violence." 

Amazon, Target and Nike are some national companies offering Juneteenth as a paid holiday. Garrett said it’s "phenomenal" to see schools and companies recognizing and celebrating the historic day.

“We’re celebrating that our people were able to break out of being enslaved and what it means to be Black in America,” Garrett said.

She also encourages people to educate themselves on Black history and issues the community faces.

“This has been such a profound moment in history,” Garrett said. “Pay attention, read and don’t look to us to give you all the answers.”