Juneteenth arriving as new holiday at Lesley (and maybe Harvard?); Events are planned
Juneteenth – June 19, commemorating the day in 1865 that slaves learned they’d been proclaimed free in the United States – has been named a holiday at Lesley University recognized in the academic calendar, “now and forever,” spokesman John Sullivan said in a Thursday email.
In addition to the day off that puts Juneteenth on par with holidays such as Patriots Day, the school has also newly gathered resources in one place that address race and racism, including an “Anti-Oppression Guide” from the university library and podcasts from the Lesley community that range from historic to poetic.
Harvard follows close behind Lesley, with a Tuesday letter from president Lawrence Bacow (signed just “Larry”) saying the university closes Friday, with faculty and staff getting paid time off. The closing “offers a moment to acknowledge and celebrate the promise of a new beginning, and I cannot imagine a better year for Harvard to begin recognizing its significance,” Bacow writes, suggesting an ongoing holiday. (The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is officially silent on the matter, though student groups vow to donate up to $25,000 in a Black Lives Matter protest that notably wraps up on Juneteenth.)
Other local institutions haven’t gone so far. While the Juneteenth flag is to be raised at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Cambridge City Hall, municipal websites for Cambridge and Somerville are otherwise silent on the topic. Some city councilors in Boston say they want a recognized holiday, similar to what Lesley is instituting on its own. “It shouldn’t just be a resolution,” councilor Andrea Campbell said, quoted by boston.com.
Most states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday or observance, according to a June 3 update by the Congressional Research Service. Massachusetts issued a proclamation in 2007 that named the Sunday closest to June 19 each year as when the holiday is observed.
In the slew of announced Juneteenth events, there are a three based in Cambridge and Somerville: “Stop & Frisk,” an online poetry reading from 7 to 9 p.m. from Porter Square Books with Jabari Asim and Porsha Olayiwola; and two in-person, socially distanced events, including a My Brother’s Keeper Task Force walk from Graffiti Alley in Central Square to events at the Cambridge Main Library from 2:30 to 6 p.m., and a candlelight vigil from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the East Somerville Public Library, 115 Broadway.