Celebrating Juneteenth 2023

From the Desk of Dean Heller

Dear Colleagues,Juneteenth graphic with words "Freedom Day" and African colors.

Monday is Juneteenth, the day that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. As many of you know, it was on June 19, 1865 that Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas to announce that the more than 250,000 enslaved Black people in the state were free by executive decree. More than 150 years later, Juneteenth was made a federal holiday by President Biden, and soon after became a state holiday in Connecticut.

Recognizing Juneteenth is critical at a time when the teaching of Black history and systemic racism are under attack in some states. For the School of Social Work, celebrating the holiday is part of our mission and an expression of our continued commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism (DEI/AR). We know that the struggle for freedom for the individuals, families, and communities we serve is ongoing. We join with the University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Provost’s Office in honoring the history and culture of Black and African American communities.

As part of our Strategic Plan, our faculty and staff have been meeting regularly to discuss how we would implement DEI/AR throughout our school. That means challenging ourselves and reimagining our research, teaching, field education, and vision for the future of social work. We developed a definition of anti-racism which in part states that “anti-racism means redressing historic and current harms perpetrated by systems, policies, practices, and individuals that target racialized Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in our community and connected to our community.” We have also pledged to take concrete steps to hold ourselves accountable to advancing racial justice and to support the empowerment of Black and African American students, staff, faculty, and communities.

To highlight Juneteenth, I encourage everyone to read about the history at the National Museum of African American History & Culture’s website, and to engage in events in your local community.

In solidarity,

Nina Rovinelli Heller, PhD
Dean and Professor
Zachs Chair in Social Work