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Dean's Blog: Living in historical times

Dean Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm

I offered a shorter version of this blog last week to commemorate the first Juneteenth federal holiday yet am sharing it here again to encourage further awareness and reflection.

 Very rarely one gets the privilege to experience historical events as they occur. Last week, we experienced one of those days, and I was eager to briefly share my excitement and sense of hope with all of you. 

June 19, 1865 (Juneteenth) is the date that Major General Gordon Granger announced to roughly 250,000 slaves in Galveston, Texas that they were free. Roughly two and a half years (January 1863) prior to Major General Granger’s announcement, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation

Governor Northam declared last Friday, Juneteenth (June 18) a state holiday. While many states acknowledge Juneteenth as a holiday, it had not been recognized as a federal holiday. Last week, Congress passed a bill proposing to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, and President Biden signed this bill into law.

The work of promoting social justice is not easy, but it is imperative. I encouraged you to join me to take this opportunity to strengthen our awareness and understanding of Juneteenth, the significance it holds, and rippling affects it has had on our country, our colleagues, and society. 

I suggested our science community review the list (and links) provided by Lester Arnold, Mason’s CHRO & Vice President for Human Resources and Payroll, which contain information about opportunities and local events associated with Juneteenth celebrations.

One of the highlighted opportunities in the list was a preview to activities happening at Mason this fall, Rx Racial Healing Circles (RHCs). 

According to Mason’s Center for the Advancement of Well-being website, RHCs are designed for community building and racial awareness and founded on the principles of jettisoning the hierarchy of human value and narrative change through storytelling. The uniqueness of RHCs come from their focus on health, well-being, agency, inclusion, and our common humanity.

Racial healing is an ongoing process beyond an individual circle experience. As such, the Wellness Center recommends that individuals engage in multiple racial healing and transformation activities for long-term, immersive learning.  (Learn more about the background of Racial Healing Circles). RHCs are a collaboration between the Center for the Advancement of Well-being and Mason’s Campus Center for Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT)

Our college and the university at large will continue to provide opportunities to expand your awareness and understanding, yet each of us must individually prioritize this learning. Didn’t get to attend or participate in specific Juneteenth activities? Take time now to learn or renew your own personal pledge to attend an event in the future.

Inclusive excellence in science transcends race, culture, gender, socioeconomics, pedigree, and the plethora of dimensions associated with true diversity. I am committed to learning, growing, and working alongside you in increasing the diversity, equity, and inclusivity of the College of Science community. 

Always in solidarity,