Amidst the storms, Juneteenth celebration powers on

Artist Jason Johnson | Isaac Campos, PantherNOW

Isaac Campos | Contributing Writer

In a long line of Juneteenth festivals FIU presented, alongside the Department of Access, Compliance, and Equal Opportunity(ACEO), the June 15 Freedom Day Celebration! 

The Freedom Day Celebration offered an opportunity for students, local artists, and vendors to come out and celebrate Juneteenth.

Juneteenth reminds us of the day in 1865 when enslaved people of Galveston, Texas were free. Juneteenth is an essential holiday that not only recognizes black independence but celebrates it.

Independent artist Jason Johnson, featured as one of the vendors at the festival, had a deep place for Juneteenth in his heart as well as in his art. 

“Coming from black parents who lived through the civil rights movement, lived through Jim Crow, I know how much it meant to gain our freedom and our rights,” Johnson said. 

Jason Johnson also spoke about the generational meaning behind Juneteenth, it is not only a celebration of independence but also a celebration of the work and struggle of the past that sought to remove the struggle for all black lives of the future. 

“I’m also a father now so it means a lot for me, knowing my dad went through all that stuff, knowing that my kids [were] able to be born in a world that me and him didn’t have to go through freedom wise and as far as rights.” 

The Freedom Day festival being able to promote local artists like Johnson on a bigger scale as well as celebrate the inherent meaning of Juneteenth speak to the integral value of a celebration like this.

The Freedom Day celebration also brought as much appreciation for local artists and vendors as it did for academic departments and professors who work to provide a deeper understanding of black excellence over the years. 

Valerie Patterson, Professor of Public Policy and Administration as well as director of the African and African diasporic study program who was part of the initial planning committee, has been celebrating Juneteenth for over 20 years. 

“I was really excited about the opportunity to have our Freedom Day celebration on campus, and especially since I am the director of a program that focuses on culture and issues related to people of African continent and of the African diaspora,” Patterson said. 

The festival brought out many professors and academics to come show support and celebrate, another member of the planning committee.

Mario Lewis, assistant director of Education and Learning at FIU spoke on the significance of the event on a historical and generally universal level. 

“I think of it as a great historical educational exercise. It showcases and documents a time in American history. It provides a community for the broader university community. Where we can all just gather, learn and grow and come together as one university,” Lewis said. 

Amid an uneventful and flooded summer the Juneteenth committee was able to provide a gracious event to bring the university community back together to recognize and appreciate black excellence on a wide and small scale.

A local band plays at the celebration | Isaac Campos, PantherNOW

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