Juneteenth: A Day for Contemplation

June 18, 2020

To the Campus Community:

On June 19, 1865, enslaved Black people in Texas finally found out that they had been freed from bondage. President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation a full two years earlier, but Texas slaveholders had hidden that fact from the people they kept in chains. Generations of Black Americans have since joyously celebrated the anniversary of that liberation as Juneteenth.

Now, 155 years after what was supposed to be that final emancipation, we have again been reminded that the work of liberation is far from finished. We have seen how dangerous it is for Black Americans even to go jogging, or bird-watching, or simply to be in their own homes. We have again seen how many Black Americans struggle to breathe, to vote, or simply to live in a country where, too often, Black lives do not matter.

So, this Juneteenth is a time for us to do more than celebrate. We hope you use tomorrow as an opportunity to think deeply about the ways in which racism persists and to recommit to the urgent work that we all must do to ensure true liberation. At UCLA, we are taking a hard look at what we can do better, discussing concrete actions with campus stakeholders and planning to announce next steps soon. We also encourage you to visit UCLA’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Office website, which includes ways you can acknowledge Juneteenth and learn more about how to actively engage in the work for racial justice.

UCLA alumnus Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has powerfully observed that “Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands.” Shining that light — and doing the real work of change — is never easy. It requires honest reflection, moral courage and purposeful action. That is the price we must pay for the world we want.

Like the dust Kareem describes, racism permeates every sector of our society, from education to employment, from housing to health care, from board rooms to court rooms. Racial justice is a goal that must compel every one of us. None of us can be all we want to be until ALL of us can be all we want to be. Therefore, on this Juneteenth, we ask every Bruin to ask themselves how they can do more to combat racism in all its forms, to end anti-Black bias especially and to achieve racial equity, inclusion and justice for all. Please be assured UCLA is doing the same.


Gene D. Block

Emily A. Carter
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost