Jun 23, 2021 | Atlanta, GA
On June 18, the Office of Minority Educational Development (OMED) and three campus Black student organizations partnered to host what are believed to be the first Juneteenth recognition events at Georgia Tech, which included a virtual discussion and afternoon celebration on Tech Green. One day prior, just days after the U.S. Senate passed a unanimous bill to establish June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, President Joseph Biden Jr. signed it into law, making Juneteenth the country’s twelfth federal holiday.
Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, a Union general rode into Galveston, Texas, to announce that the Civil War had ended -- and Black slaves had been freed. Though the Emancipation Proclamation became law in January 1863, it could not be enforced in places still under Confederate control.
Juneteenth has been celebrated across Texas and other parts of the country for years. However, following nationwide protests in 2020 over police brutality and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other Black Americans, there has been a renewed interest in the day that celebrates freedom for the last of Black American slaves.
The virtual conversation featured a keynote and presentation entitled Juneteenth and the Black Digital by André Brock, associate professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication.
“I’ve been invited to discuss Juneteenth and its importance on the occasion of its first-ever federal holiday to mark the event,” Brock opened. “Today, using my research on Blackness and digital media, I’d like to offer a way to contextualize where we find ourselves as we begin this double-holiday weekend,” he continued, offering a nod to Father’s Day which followed the day after Juneteenth.
Brock’s scholarship includes published articles on racial representations in videogames, Blackness, and digital technoculture, as well as groundbreaking research on “Black Twitter.” He recently received a sub-grant to further interdisciplinary research into issues of race, difference, and computation.
“We should also remember it [Juneteenth] is Black folks making something out of nothing; a moment of rest to mark the dismantling of an apartheid state -- and its love for slave labor -- and we have continued to celebrate that moment, even as our ancestors endured Reconstruction, the nadir [considered a particularly brutal period in African American history, spanning the end of Reconstruction in 1877 through the early 20th century] and the piece-by-piece construction of Jim Crow laws.”
Brock's rousing presentation was followed by a question-answer session between the scholar and his virtual audience.
Later that afternoon, OMED hosted a celebration on Tech Green complete with food, games, comradery, faculty, staff, and students – including several Georgia Tech men’s basketball and football team members -– and tabling by organizations including Delta Sigma Theta and Zeta Phi Beta sororities and Omega Psi Phi and Phi Beta Sigma fraternities.
The day was supported by partnership with the African Student Association, the Georgia Tech Caribbean Student Organization, and the African American Student Union, the Institute’s oldest Black student organization.
A full recording of the virtual discussion can be viewed at https://youtu.be/p8zc4Vzg_vM.