Florida Gulf Coast University celebrated the 157th anniversary of Juneteenth, the national holiday recognizing the end of slavery, with a festive event June 17 centered on the theme of culture.
The third annual celebration of Juneteenth at FGCU was sponsored by the Multicultural and Leadership Development Center (MLD).
FGCU student Savannah Niarchos kicked off the event on Library Lawn with a rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the Black national anthem. The National Pan-Hellenic Council and local historians also performed. Whiteboards were set up to serve as reflection stations, allowing those who attended to share their thoughts on Juneteenth.
“I hope people feel united in this,” said Dasia Perryman, an FGCU student and MLD member. “I want people to know this isn’t an exclusive holiday. I want them to walk away a bit more confident in what they know about our history.”
Juneteenth, short for June 19, marks the anniversary of Union soldiers arriving in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African Americans of their freedom, two years after President Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation. President Joe Biden signed a bill in 2021 recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
Prisca Morisma, an FGCU alumna, academic success coach assistant in FGCU’s Center of Academic Achievement and one of the celebration’s emcees, hopes the event educates and inspires people of all backgrounds.
“A lot of people have this idea that Juneteenth is just for Black people, but it’s for everybody because we all make up the United States of America,” Morisma said. “When the last person was finally freed, that’s something for all of us to celebrate together.”
In addition to the entertainment, a showcase of 17 Black-owned local businesses was set up on the lawn, providing an opportunity for FGCU students to network with community members.
Event organizers challenged students to make a new connection by introducing themselves to at least one person they had not met.
Terroncia Simon, the owner of TS Painting Lounge and administrative specialist in the College of Education, aims “to educate individuals to be creative on a canvas.” She values the local connections and incorporates networking within her painting classes.
“In my classes, I let business [owners] talk about their companies and let people know what they have to offer,” said Simon. “When we are there for one another, we build a network with each other, and I want to share knowledge of what individuals can do with their talents.”
- Learn more about Juneteenth here.