“It takes a deep commitment to change and an even deeper commitment to grow.”
- Ralph Ellison, preeminent author of the novels Invisible Man (1952) and Juneteenth (1999)
Dear Santa Clara University Community,
This Friday, June 19, is Juneteenth. This historic day commemorates the date in 1865 when announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached the most remote of the southern states, Texas. Slavery had been abolished nearly two and a half years beforehand, but June 19,1865 is when it ended in Texas.
Juneteenth is usually observed with an emphasis on joyful celebration of the resilience and brilliance of people of African descent. This year we are not able to celebrate together because of the campus closure related to the pandemic. To mark the day this year, we are pleased to announce that Friday will be an administrative closure day at Santa Clara. We invite you to commemorate Juneteenth in your own way with family and friends.
Our colleagues in the Center for Social Justice and Public Service, School of Law, created the attached resource page with ideas for Juneteenth. You might attend one of the virtual music festivals and other festivities, take time to read many of the thoughtful reflections on racial justice written over the last few weeks, learn about anti-Black racism, or nourish your spirit in prayer.
Reflecting on Ralph Ellison’s words above, we have been enriched and encouraged these past few weeks by the many manifestations of deep commitment to change and to grow in our campus community. Certainly, we feel change and growth in our own hearts and minds. This year, Juneteenth has unique meaning for us because we are reflecting and acting upon the suggestions and perspectives you have shared with us.
We understand our community’s clear message that our next step must be concrete action rather than another committee. We affirm the excellent work and recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Diversity and Inclusion (2016), the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion (2017), and the Campus Climate Team (2018-19). We applaud the grass roots work being undertaken in academic units, our centers of distinction, and campus departments as well as by so many individuals on campus. The kind of change we need to undertake involves all of us at every level. Over the summer, we will track our progress on existing recommendations, respond to emerging initiatives and questions, and move forward with transparency, dialogue, and concrete results.
Intersectional growth and change are unfolding on a national level as well. Just this past Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Title VII, the major federal antidiscrimination law, equally protects employees from sex discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This is a long overdue affirmation of LGBTQ+ equality, and we celebrate this milestone. You can hear Professor Margaret Russell’s legal assessment of the decision here.
We hope that you find joy and comfort in sharing this administrative closure day together in spirit: being grateful for the contributions of Black faculty, staff and students; reflecting on how you can be a part of the change we need at Santa Clara and in our society; and making our world more humane, just, gentle and sustainable.
In celebration and solidarity,
Associate Provost for Diversity & Inclusion and Professor of Law
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Kevin F. O'Brien, S.J.