Babson’s Lessons of Juneteenth Babson’s Thought and Action

Members of the Babson College global community, from as far away as Rwanda and Jamaica, came together virtually last week to commemorate June 19 by sharing personal stories, poetry and songs to express their thoughts. on the new federal holiday.

“As I reflect on this day, I wonder what it’s like to be the last to know,” said Babson Associate Professor Wiljeana Glover, one of Babson’s many speakers at the event.

Glover was referring to the fact that slavery in America was abolished in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation. But slaves living in Galveston, Texas, and many other places in the South, didn’t know they were free until June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston to announce and enforce the Lincoln proclamation.

“While I can’t fully imagine their shock, anger or even hope, I can imagine other moments on the road to freedom from Jim Crow and discrimination from my own family,” Glover said.

The hour-long event offered staff, faculty, alumni and students a chance to answer the question, “Where do we go from here?”

Sadie Burton-Goss, head of diversity and inclusion at Babson, highlighted the many possibilities on the horizon, while keynote speaker Dr. Derron Wallace, assistant professor of sociology and education at the University Brandeis, called for continued vigilance against the same “silent campaign for white economic advancement” that motivated Texas slaveholders in 1863 to silence more than two years after the liberation of African Americans.

In his welcoming remarks, Babson’s President, Stephen Spinelli Jr. MBA’92, PhD, pledged to continue Babson’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

“Our community is dedicated to this work, and it is far from over. We continue our work with humility and determination,” Spinelli said. “We listen, we learn and together we move forward as one community, Babson.”

Where do we go from here?

Reflecting on the fact that Galveston’s slaves were the last to know their freedom, Glover suggested that the nation’s current destination has a lot to do with education.

“As a professor at Babson College, I have chosen to use this position to engage Babson and Rwanda students through our Global Health Innovation Lab, so they are not the last to learn about the amazing technologies and approaches they can use to impact their communities,” said Glover.

“This Juneteenth, I hope all educators are motivated to teach all students – including underrepresented minorities – a variety of topics and opportunities, from mergers and acquisitions and Spanish literature, economics politics and the war in Ukraine, entrepreneurship in health technologies and food ways,” she added, “so that the wheels of justice keep turning through education, and so that the last become the first to know”.

Luke Cooper MBA’11 spoke about his success as the founder and CEO of an on-demand smartphone repair service called Fixt. Cooper stressed the need for parity to ensure black Americans have the support they need — as he has — to reach their full potential. The venture-backed tech company started with $6.5 million and grew 300% year-over-year.

“This Juneteenth, I leave you with this: This is not a new message that poverty and institutional racism stand in the way of justice and economic progress for black and brown people in this country,” Cooper said. “From Frederick Douglass to Lewis Latimer and so many others who came before me fighting to emphasize racial parity, I now stand in their shadow, emphasizing economic parity. I truly lucky to stand on the shoulders of giants who created so much before me, and fought and fought so hard before me to make this moment possible, but we have so much more to do. join me ?

Raise every voice

Babson College students Zykera Steward ’23 and Christopher Ogunbufunmi ’23 shared their personal experiences with Juneteenth.

“I feel like Juneteenth is a holiday for the black community for people to come together,” Steward said. “All just celebrate the excellence of Blackness, especially after all these years of oppression, and come together as a strong unit.”

Wallace delivered his keynote after Terrance Gresham, Babson’s associate director of diversity and inclusion, graduate admissions, performed a searing rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” originally a poem written by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson. Wallace also relied on poetry to express the complexities of Juneteenth and what he called “the power of hope, despite despair”.

Wallace read “Harlem,” a poem by Langston Hughes, repeating his famous lines about “a deferred dream,” to emphasize it. “Today, June 18, at its heart marks a postponed or suppressed dream, a deliberately delayed recognition of black freedom,” Wallace said. “Freedom did not travel fast, some would say, on purpose.”

Above all, Juneteenth offers future generations a chance to learn from the past, Wallace said.

“Listen to me with your heart and not just with your ears,” he said. “Juneteenth is a dark and sobering cry across generations to be a witness to the past in the present to shape a better tomorrow.

“Juneteenth has long been and continues to be a clarion call to transform the world as it is into the world as it should be.”

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