Dear Howard University Community,
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, there has been a lot of talk about social justice; diversity, equity and inclusion; health care disparities; and more of the topics we at Howard University have been discussing for generations. These local and national conversations are, generally speaking, a positive force for good in our society. We cannot make progress unless we are willing to discuss, with complete honesty and sincerity, what needs to change.
However, as Juneteenth reminds us, conversation is never enough. New laws passed in the halls of Congress are not enough. New orders signed in the Oval Office are not enough. New rulings passed down in the Supreme Court are not enough. Our work will never be done until our loftiest goals have been achieved and realized in people’s lives.
The jubilation we are expected to exhibit on Juneteenth is ill-suited for and improperly felt in the present moment. It is very much intended to be a performance, one where we seek to access the emotions of others and masquerade them as our own for a specific purpose and finite period of time. We are echoing the joy of those former slaves in Galveston, Texas, who were informed of their freedom. We are summoning the exhilaration of our descendants, our children and children’s children, for whom we have faith that they will enjoy better health, greater opportunities and truer equality than Black people experience today. These are emotions that we cannot fully embody ourselves when we remember the two and a half years the slaves of Galveston continued to be enslaved after they were legally set free, when we remember the generations of our forebears and offspring who were and will continue to be deprived of all the freedoms and rights to which they have always been entitled.
This performance of exultation that we assume on Juneteenth is just as important as the conversations we have and the laws we pass in pursuit of social justice. When our journey may feel difficult and interminable, we must remember the moments of triumphs that our community has experienced along the way to inspire us to carry on. When we feel as if we should settle for lesser goals, we must remember the joy our descendants will feel when the full fruits of our labors have grown and ripened.
In observance of the Juneteenth holiday, the University will be closed on Monday, June 20, and will reopen Tuesday, June 21, 2022.
Employees determined to be essential are expected to still perform in their work capacities on Monday, June 20. Essential services include those provided by Enterprise Technology Services, WHUR-FM, WHUT-TV, Physical Facilities Management, Public Safety and Howard University Hospital. Essential employees will receive equivalent administrative leave for a future date, to be determined by their manager. That information will be covered in a separate memorandum to be issued by the cabinet officer responsible for departments that provide essential services. Managers, please ensure that all employees under your purview receive this notice.
Let us use this time off to remember that the work we do is in honor of those who have felt, as well as those who have been denied, their moments of jubilation. It is this joy-filled sadness and this sorrowful happiness that fuels our ongoing service.
Excellence in Truth and Service,
Wayne A. I. Frederick, M.D., MBA
Charles R. Drew Professor of Surgery