The many celebrations of June

Kijua Sanders-McMurtry writes to the Mount Holyoke community about Pride, Juneteenth, the 50th anniversary of Title IX and more.

June 16, 2022

Dear community members,

June overflows with significant demonstrations and celebrations as the College closes for Juneteenth, signifying the day when enslaved people in Texas learned of the Emancipation Proclamation. We honor Pride in commemoration of the Stonewall rebellion which is considered a visible resistance movement for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and transgender (LGBTQ+) people. It’s also particularly poignant for a women’s college that is gender diverse to share in the reflection and celebrations of the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of Title IX, a civil rights law focused on challenging gender-based inequities in higher education. 

As the College shares critical resources and opportunities for engagement, we want to amplify these three milestones and our continued work towards actualizing the promises of the anti-racism action plan. We are excited for Mount Holyoke’s participation in the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U’s) 2022 Institute on Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation. These occasions remind us of the importance and interdependence of our ideals and continued commitment to the work necessary to build toward a more just and equitable community. 

The Mount Holyoke College Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is committed to offering resources, trainings and other educational opportunities to each member of our community. Our hope is that you will join with us and engage in your own individual, and our collective, journey towards confronting all forms of oppression. To that end, we invite you to learn more about Pride, Juneteenth, Title IX, and our efforts to grow in our commitment and capacity to realize an anti-racist future. Please explore and engage with the content we’ve linked below and share with us events and information that are helpful to you along your journey via e-mail, Facebook or Instagram. 

Over the last number of years, Pride has increasingly become a celebration; however, it began with rebellions and continues to be an annual demonstration of the ongoing fight for justice and equality. As we celebrate the hard-won, liberatory advances made by and for the LGBTQ+ community we invite you to join us in not losing sight of the work yet to be done and the ongoing need to demonstrate and resist. We’ve provided a list of resources, local events, and our own LGBTQ+ history at Mount Holyoke which highlights a rich tradition of queer activism and visibility past and present. You can also view two important recorded BOOM! lectures — LGBTQ+ and disability rights activist Dr. Tameeka Hunter reflects on her embodied experience as a Black queer disabled person in Life at the Intersections: Centering Multiple Margins and transgender advocate and triathlete Chris Mosier shares supportive action steps in Let Trans Kids Play: Protecting Trans Lives On and Off the Field

Juneteenth, historically known as Jubilee Day, marks the day that enslaved people in Texas were notified that their freedom had been determined two and half years earlier with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. The delay of this announcement was rooted in a long history of racism and anti-Black violence. Despite this reality, many formerly enslaved Black people in Texas joyously celebrated their long fought battle for emancipation. 

Juneteenth remains a time for Black people to reflect on their own struggles for justice and revel in joy and celebration with each other. Amidst increased racist and anti-Black gun violence, persistently high rates of incarceration, staggering racialized disparities in healthcare, housing and wealth, and the unstinted commodification and commercialization of Juneteenth, the Black community commemorates its imperfect freedom. We encourage you to watch and reflect upon Dr. Jelani Cobb’s lecture — The Half Life of Freedom: Race and Justice in America Today — which was part of Mount Holyoke’s annual week of racial justice and reconciliation in 2021. 

We also invite you to learn more about Juneteenth and work toward a more just society where anti-Black racism is consistently resisted. Opal Lee, the noted lifetime activist for the recognition of Juneteenth, is encouraging people everywhere to participate in a walk for freedom on June 18, 2022. You can find out more about Opal’s Walk at this website:

This June marks the fiftieth anniversary of Title IX — the federal civil rights law passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or any other education program that receives funding from the federal government. This fall, Mount Holyoke will be working across the Five College Consortium to engage our students, faculty and staff in specific programming and reflective moments related to this anniversary. As we await the changes to Title IX regulations anticipated under the current U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights this month, we will continue to ensure that our work towards equity and compliance is undaunted and audacious in fighting for gender-based equity for women, trans and nonbinary people. Each year, we host programming focused on violence prevention, education and support for survivors. You can view pre-recorded DEI programming content featuring activist and survivor Elizabeth Smart, transformative justice activist Dean Spade and stalking expert Dana Fleitman to educate yourself about ongoing strategies for supporting those impacted by gender-based harm.

We are thrilled to have been selected to join the AAC&U 2022 Institute on Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT). Five Mount Holyoke College community members — Sam Benson, Paola Gallego, Elizabeth Markovits, V.S. Raghu Raghavan and myself — along with colleagues from the City of Springfield and Holyoke Community College will participate in the virtual institute June 21-24. Our participation in the TRHT institute marks the continuation of our anti-racism work and reflects the AAC&U’s belief in our capacity to further the goals of truth, racial healing and community transformation at Mount Holyoke College and beyond. 

The DEI Office will be hiring new colleagues in the work of disability justice and education, LGBTQ+ inclusion, and gender-based equity over the next few months after a few staff departures, so please know that we hope to make more announcements in the fall. We welcome your insights, perspectives and inquiries. In our work, we continue to look for opportunities to support all those who are marginalized, targeted and underrepresented and hope for a world where we can all flourish without the systemic issues of the past and present.

Grateful to be in deep solidarity with each of you,