Juneteenth 2020: Celebrating and Realizing Freedom

On June 19, 1865, the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation was finally fulfilled when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learned that the Civil War was over and that slavery had ended. In the decades that followed, the date provided an opportunity for African Americans to celebrate emancipation at Juneteenth parades, events and gatherings. If in winning the Civil War the U.S. had also scored a victory for racial justice, this would be a national holiday that all Americans celebrate. But as we have been reminded yet again, while the Confederacy may have lost the battle, white supremacy won the war.

Never more so than this year does Juneteenth provide an opportunity for all Americans to pledge not just their support for racial justice but to commit their time and resources to action to effect real change. That starts with us, with me and with San Francisco State University.

The pursuit of racial justice should not still be a necessary conversation in the United States. Four hundred and one years after the introduction of slavery, 155 years after the end of slavery, and 55 years after the Civil Rights Act, we should not still be talking about the persistence of white supremacy, police brutality and the myriad inequities wrought by centuries of systemic racism. But despite the efforts of many, including many here at San Francisco State, we still are. 

Black Lives Matter at SF State. Our role as an engine of educational and economic equity has never been more important. Providing better access to a world-class university education and better ensuring degree completion are critical for economic equity and mobility for Black communities in San Francisco, the Bay Area and across the state. 

As we look to the future, we affirm our core commitments and pledge to realize them.

We are committed to listening to our Black students, faculty and staff and local community leaders.

We are committed to a renewal of the SF Promise that sets ambitious goals to recruit, retain and graduate more African American students and students from all communities of color. 

We are committed to recruiting and retaining Black faculty, staff and administrators, as well as new colleagues from other historically underrepresented communities. 

We are committed to anti-racist education and policies, including the repeal of Prop 209.

We are committed to not asking those who have already done so much to do more, especially African Americans and other communities of color, but are committed to asking others, particularly white allies, to do more and do it now.

Few of us have likely seen anything like the last few weeks. And while tragedy and pain abound, there are signs of real change, including dramatically increased support for Black Lives Matter and for the repeal of Proposition 209 to strengthen equity in higher education. As in 1968, the need for San Francisco State University to lead is great. As the president of SF State, I embrace our role and commit us to action.

We will listen, we will learn and we will do better. On this Juneteenth, a day also of reflection and education, celebrate freedom and commit to realizing it for all.


Lynn's signature

Lynn Mahoney, Ph.D.