Congress voted Wednesday to make Juneteenth a federal holiday -- commemorating June 19 in 1865 when slaves in Texas learned they were freed, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
Friday in Indianapolis, Martin University honors that history with a new National Center for Racial Equity and Inclusion. It aims to foster, support and sustain equity through workshops, lectures and other programs. WFYI's Terri Dee spoke with President Sean Huddleston about that work.
WFYI Reporter Terri Dee: Let's talk about the connection between racial equity and inclusion and what Juneteenth represents. I understand that Martin University will be holding a program this month, in honor of that historic day.
Martin University President Sean Huddleston: It’s really exciting for us to work in collaboration with other organizations that are looking to help to address some of those racial equity gaps that have been persistent not just in our region, but really around the country.
We think that by working with other organizations who have been doing this work, and have really, really been committed to trying to resolve these issues that have been facing us for some time, we do believe that we can arrive at some solutions that will truly help us get to racial equity. But the symbolism or I think importance of a pattern this right around Juneteenth is really significant. But I would argue that in other ways, it is the beginning of a lot of the structural and systemic racism and racial inequity that our country has faced for some time.
So, for us, launching our National Center for Racial Equity and Inclusion, on that day, is in many ways symbolic of us trying to address, what was meant to be dealt with Juneteenth, which is a true effort to begin to try to resolve issues of racial inequity, especially in Indianapolis. So, we're really excited about that.
Dee: Dr. Huddleston, Martin University will host a community wide Juneteenth event, how would you like to see the community's response and participation, as the university honors a time in history as you just described, that does not receive its deserved recognition?
Huddleston: We see it as a day on and not a day off. We want to use that moment to really start getting right at the heart of some of the matters that still cause persistent racial inequities. Through a very generous grant from the Central Indiana Racial Equity fund, we have been able to develop some programming that will start those conversations.
We're working in great partnership with Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, who I think really wants to make some very intentional steps and helping to resolve some of the racial tensions and some of the structural issues that have been happening, as we all know, in law enforcement. We've seen so many issues, unfortunately, over the last a couple years, where the ideas of Black lives being snuffed out at the hands of law enforcement have come to a crescendo.
IMPD really wants to take some very strong steps and work with us in our center for racial, equity and inclusion, and having those conversations and find out how we can get to the heart of matter and work together to resolve some of these issues. It is not just a matter of Black lives mattering. It's also Black livelihood mattering. We're going to start off our series and our Juneteenth celebration by trying to address a real issue that's been affecting our communities for some time in partnership with those who want to see the solution.
So, our hope is that the community will come out and engage in those conversations with IMPD and others and begin to help to construct a solution that will help to address this really important issue.
Dee: Dr. Huddleston, thank you for your time today and much success to the launch of Martin's National Center for Racial Equity and Inclusion.
Huddleston: Thank you, Terri.