University of Northern Iowa Strategic Plan: Goal I:
The University of Northern Iowa is committed to championing diversity as a core value of our university community. UNI will create and maintain a diverse, respectful and inclusive work and learning environment in order to prepare the university community for a constantly evolving world and so that inclusive excellence becomes the norm. This work will include challenging beliefs and practices that discriminate against, degrade, or diminish a group within our community based on the group members' innate characteristics. We believe that valuing diversity is a necessary foundation for inclusion, and that inclusive excellence provides a learning environment for our students and our community that prepares us for a dynamic, interconnected world.
Provide a campus culture that reflects and values the evolving diversity of society and promotes inclusion.
A Message From Gwenne Berry, UNI's Chief Diversity Officer
The Importance of Juneteenth
It was 155 years ago today that federal troops rode into Galveston, Texas, to announce to the last remaining slaves in the United States, that they were free. Although the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed two years previously, word traveled slowly and even when some landowners heard about it they simply resisted telling Black people of their freedom. Thus, slavery continued.
Upon hearing the good news from the troops, the celebration by those who had only moments before been slaves, was immediate: dances, prayers, feasts and, later, speeches. The date quickly became an annual celebration in Texas and was called Freedom Day. As the celebration spread to other states, its name was changed: first to Jubilee Day and then finally to Juneteenth Independence Day, the holiday we celebrate today.
Although African Americans all across this nation have given great attention to the holiday, white people have been slow to understand its significance. This year, because of the extremely graphic murder of George Floyd that was shown over and over on national and international television, worldwide protests were formed, and a long-overdue conversation about race in America ensued. As part of that conversation, white people are looking to educate themselves about the culture of their African American neighbors. Today Juneteenth is being observed as a paid holiday by the NFL, Ford and General Motors, Google, Nike, Mastercard, Spotify and many, many more.
Juneteenth is part of American history and it is just as important to both celebrate and understand as any of our other holidays. It is a day that should remind us of the accomplishments and progress of our nation since the official end of slavery. And finally, it should stand as a reason for us to accept that we have a very long way to go and to move intentionally toward achieving true equality, real equity and justice for an entire race of people marginalized since 1619 when the first slave was brought to our shores.
I hope you will take some time today to read about Juneteenth and imagine what that original day must have been like in Galveston. Find out how others are celebrating. There are multiple stories, articles and podcasts out there; check them out and get involved.
Gwenne Berry, UNI’s chief diversity officer, talks about the importance of the holiday in Five Question Friday, a production of the UNI Alumni Association. You can catch it on their page: unialum.org.
The Chief Diversity Officer, Gwenne Berry, is seeking to re-establish the three racial and ethnic
affinity groups: African American, Hispanic/Latino/LatinX, and Asian American. Those
interested in being members should send an email to Berry at Diversity@UNI.EDU,
indicating in the body of that message the group with which they identify or want to join.
Who is Making a Difference at UNI