On June 14, Cal Poly Pomona hosted its inaugural Juneteenth event, ‘Juneteenth: A Day of Remembrance, Reflection and Promise,’ in person at Kellogg West and via Zoom livestream.
About 190 faculty, staff, students and community partners attended the event, which included personal reflections, speeches, music and performances, and an activity rooted in commitment. The event aimed to educate attendees about Juneteenth through the lens of continued action.
Jewel Jackson, a Cal Poly Pomona alumna and founder of African Soul International, held a cup of water with a pot of flowers as she explained the “libation ritual” and set the stage for the day’s theme.
“The process of libations is a ritual in which we pour water back into the earth, remembering that we must continue to water our seed in order to continue to grow. That is what today is all about,” said Jackson (’19, doctorate in education), who founded African Soul International in 1998.
In a keynote address, scholar, historian and entrepreneur Daniel E. Walker called on the audience to reflect on the meaning of Juneteenth, closing with a call to commitment centered on love and justice.
Walker said: “Juneteenth is a mixed emotions type of day. The notion of what it means; what we celebrate. Things like the resilience and ingenuity and go-get-my-freedom spirt of Black folks.
“To every single person here, anyone affiliated with this institution, and I would say this nation: This is a critical time. If those in the past could do all that with what little they had, what can we do now?”
The event also highlighted the struggles that Black and African American students face at Cal Poly Pomona, presented through data and personal anecdotes. Teshia Roby, associate vice president for learning and research technologies, and Jonathan Grady, senior associate vice president and dean of students used this data to illustrate the importance of action through examples of what comes next.
“I have the utmost confidence that our brilliance, innovation, commitment to care and magic as a university will pave the way for a better and more just tomorrow,” Grady said. “Ask yourself, what will you do to commit to the change?”
A key next step already in the works is a university-wide Black Thriving Initiative, announced during the event. The initiative aims to bring attention to the Black experience at Cal Poly Pomona, allowing the campus community to learn together while identifying solutions and then acting upon them. More information about this initiative will be shared prior to its launch in fall 2022.
To close out the day, leaders in the Office of Cultural and Identity Spaces facilitated an activity in which audience members wrote their own commitments on paper leaves to become part of a live painting by artist Renee Walker.
The event also included remarks by Provost Jennifer Brown, a video message by President Soraya M. Coley and closing remarks by College of Science Associate Dean Michael Page.
“We’re celebrating my ancestors today and their freedom, but we’re all connected in this story. How are you going to define your place in history?” Page said.
“Juneteenth: A Day of Remembrance, Reflection and Promise” was organized in collaboration between Student Affairs, Academic Affairs and the Office of the President. You can watch a recording of the event on the Juneteenth event webpage. For more information about the event or the Black Thriving Initiative, contact Jonathan Grady at email@example.com.