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Observing Juneteenth and Black Community Initiatives Update

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Jeremy Haefner

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Dear DU community members,

In recognition of Juneteenth, the University will be closed on Friday, June 18. In addition, on June 17, we are invited to gather at 5 p.m. at the Community Commons Patio and Grand Forum for “Juneteenth: Day of Reflection,” where we will hear about the history of the holiday and pay homage to the lives impacted by slavery through poetry, songs, African drumming and a libation ceremony. All faculty, staff and students are invited to attend or join the celebration via the live stream. Please register for DU’s Juneteenth event here. 

Why We Celebrate Juneteenth

Juneteenth captures the spectrum of the American experience; it reminds us of the pain and evil of slavery and of hope, even in the darkest hours of our history. It is a holiday linked to the end of a practice antithetical to the images of American democracy portrayed to the world. It is a time for acknowledging all those who fought to survive so their progeny might have the freedom they could never experience themselves. And it is a celebration of liberty that was long fought for and remains an ideal not fully realized by all.

Update on DU’s Black Community Initiatives

As a DU community, Juneteenth also provides us a moment to reflect on the progress we've made. Last summer, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI), Human Resources and Inclusive Community, and Student Affairs and Inclusive Excellence came together to create DU’s DEI Action Plan. We shared an update on the plan’s implementation this past March. A crucial goal of the DEI Action Plan is to better understand, support and improve the experiences of DU’s Black community through programming, community events and research-driven initiatives. As we finish out the academic year, I want to provide an update specifically on these initiatives.

Black Community Advisory Board (BCAB)

The Black Community Advisory Board includes faculty, staff, administrators, students and alumni. The board will help DU create substantive and sustainable resources and initiatives in support of our Black community. For more information on the advisory board and its members, please visit the BCAB website.

Community programming

During the winter and spring quarters, Black Community Experience Coordinator Andriette Jordan-Fields hosted or co-hosted a series of events and programs for critical and thoughtful engagement. Examples include conversations about building and sustaining the Black community at DU, the Black experience during the trial of Derek Chauvin, the man charged with murdering George Floyd, and the annual celebration of Juneteenth.

Community building

A large portion of our efforts have gone toward community building. During the winter and spring terms, Andriette reestablished two affinity groups to support DU’s Black students, faculty and staff. Black@DU and the Black Graduate Student Association seek to provide cultural and social networking as well as community, resource-sharing and professional development. Additionally, ODEI hosted a Black community gathering in the spring, featuring students, faculty, administrators and more.

Dedicated Black Community Initiatives website

ODEI launched the Black Community Initiatives website to provide a more nuanced understanding of DU’s Black alumnae history, a historical overview of Black DU and Denver, past and present efforts to learn from and reckon with that history, as well as Black community resources. The site will also contain the most recent community updates on our Black community initiatives and announcements. On the events section, you can read about Denver’s Juneteenth Music Festival,—one way you may wish to honor and celebrate the University’s Juneteenth holiday.

My hope is that this update provides a glimpse into the work that is underway, noting that there is still more work to be done. I am grateful to all the community members working diligently to advance the DEI Action Plan’s commitments


Jeremy Haefner