Observing Juneteenth

June 19, 2023

Dear Seattle University Community,

Today, June 19, Seattle University joins other communities nationwide in observing Juneteenth. Juneteenth, which has been a paid holiday for Seattle U since 2021, is also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day. It marks the day in 1865 when news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached enslaved Black Americans in Galveston, Texas, more than two years after the official ending of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth symbolizes liberation, resilience, and the ongoing pursuit of equality for all.

Here at Seattle University, we recognize and honor this historic day as part of a broader institutional imperative to create a more just and inclusive campus environment. As a Jesuit and Catholic university fueled by a mission for a more just and humane world, we are called to develop and nurture people for others. And, thus we recognize as critical to our growth and future as a university the LIFT SU initiative, which is a key dimension of Reigniting Our Strategic Directions, and we draw strength and hope from the openness with which our campus community is engaging difficult issues and conversations around racial justice. This was demonstrated by the active participation of so many students, faculty, and staff in the Racial Equity Summit and Freedom Schools this spring.

We are also reminded that our ongoing work as a university is unfolding within a challenging societal context and landscape. As state governments across the country use state power to censor initiatives that foster (or in some cases even just discuss) racial equity, and as we await the United States Supreme Court’s impending decisions on the use of race in college admissions, we need to redouble our commitment to being an inclusive academic community.  As I said last weekend at the Baccalaureate Mass, Seattle University’s efforts to create an inclusive campus community are inseparable from our Jesuit Catholic values, which affirm every human being’s equal dignity, without exception or qualification.

In commemorating Juneteenth, let us renew our shared commitment to amplifying the voices and experiences of Black communities, acknowledging the enduring struggle against systemic racism, and engaging in critical dialogue that promotes inclusivity and equality. In that spirit, I invite you to explore the Inclusive Excellence Summer Reading List; finding paths to solidarity through understanding and empathy.


Eduardo M. Peñalver

Natasha Martin
Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion