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It was on June 19, 1865, that the Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free – about 2 1/2 years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. This moment in history is recognized as Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
“It’s about coming together and celebrating the human experience and that we are better when we come together,” said Christopher Brooks, president of New Mexico State University’s Black Student Alliance.
NMSU BSA and Black Programs, in collaboration with the Associated Students of NMSU, will host a Juneteenth celebration from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, June 19, at the outdoor stage located at Corbett Center on NMSU’s Las Cruces campus.
Brooks said the event will focus on three things: celebrating, educating, and agitating.
“We’re going to celebrate black excellence and the accomplishments of African Americans throughout our history,” Brooks said. “We’re going to educate people about where we’ve been and where we are right now and educate people about voting, because that’s our call to action. People were jailed and others gave their lives, so we can have the right to vote.”
In collaboration with ASNMSU, BSA will provide QR codes that will take people directly to the voter registration website.
Brooks said it’s time to shake up the status quo and now is not the time to turn a blind eye or be silent.
“One thing I’m pushing and focusing on is that this isn’t something that fizzles out in a few weeks,” he said. “I don’t want this to be an afterthought, because it’s a continuous thing that’s happening.”
The event will include a performance of the black national anthem and a reading of Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise.” Students will perform spoken words and black poetry, and people will share personal stories dealing with racism. Black Greek life will also be present to discuss the contributions they have made. The event will end with a candlelight vigil, and the names of those who have died because of police brutality, racism, and social injustice will be called out.
“I think this is a time where students need a space to have something positive surrounding them,” Brooks said. “I don’t have a solution to everything going on – no single person has a solution to fix this – but by coming together, we can heal and move forward as a community. We’ve been through so much in the last six months alone, and we need something to celebrate and to let go of everything we’ve pent up inside.”
NMSU Dean of Students Ann Goodman said she’s excited to see the event come together, and noted that attendees are asked to follow state and local health and safety protocols, including face coverings and social distancing.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to gather in solidarity and honor an important event in our history,” Goodman said. “I am proud of our students and their leadership in coordinating this event. I hope to see this grow into a larger annual tradition on campus that fosters dialogue within our community about the experiences of black Americans.”
For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/BlackNMSUBSA.