June 19, 2020
Dear Tulane Community:
Today marks an important and pivotal moment in our nation’s history. On this date 155 years ago, enslaved Black people in Texas finally heard the words of the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been signed two years earlier by President Lincoln. The news that Black people could finally experience a measure of freedom was met with immediate celebration. Since then, Juneteenth has been commemorated annually. But this year, even more so than in years past, the Juneteenth celebration is tempered by the stark knowledge that true freedom, justice and equality have not yet been fully realized by the descendants of those who first heard their freedom proclaimed in that summer of 1865.
We write today as representatives of the many who are working to make Tulane an inclusive and welcoming place to learn and to grow. For some, this means promoting social justice through our learning, teaching, research and public service. For others, it means creating a more welcoming, diverse, equitable and supportive academic community through our administrative duties or roles as staff members. Whatever the means, our goal is to make society better and proclaim an emancipation from the ignorance and prejudice that has blinded our world to the full humanity and dignity of all.
It is our hope that this Juneteenth will be a time for all Tulanians to engage in self-reflection on anti-Black racism and our role in social change. On this day, and every day, we ask you to seek opportunities to listen to, believe and value the experiences of Black people and people of color, and to partner with one another and learn about the obstacles faced by marginalized people. We should look inward and consider our own beliefs. How do we create positive change in society? What can we do, individually and collectively, to make a difference? Then we should be willing to stand together as one on the road to making Tulane a place where all feel at home.
In addition to individual actions, now is also the time for institutions to understand how best to combat racism in our society. To help move our university forward on the path toward racial equity and justice, we invite you to attend the online discussion Race & Tulane – A Look at Today, a Plan for Tomorrow, at 5 p.m., Monday, June 29. This discussion will welcome students, faculty and staff to share thoughts on building a better, more diverse and more just Tulane. To join the discussion, please register here.
We can be the agents of change to make the words spoken in the heart of Texas on that long ago June 19, reach the ears and hearts of all. We can, and will, make a difference.
Mike Fitts, President
Carolyn Barber-Pierre, Assistant Vice President for Multicultural Affairs
Mike Cunningham, Associate Provost for Graduate Studies and Research