CSUMB’s connections to local Juneteenth celebrations and spirit

Juneteenth flag

The Juneteenth flag symbolizes freedom, Texas, a new horizon, and the American flag.

June 18, 2021

By Walter Ryce

Juneteenth has long been celebrated in Black American communities, including in Seaside, commemorating the day of June 19, 1865, when the last slaves in Texas were finally informed of their rightful freedom which had been granted two years prior by the Emancipation Proclamation.

On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the statute that made Juneteenth — also known as Emancipation Day and celebrated much like the 4th of July — a federal holiday.

“The significance of the just-passed bill is official, symbolic recognition of the freedom of a people,” says Brian Corpening, CSUMB’s Associate Vice President for Inclusive Excellence and Chief Diversity Officer. “It does not resolve systemic racism and oppression or their related issues. We still have a lot of work to do.”

But he plans to attend this weekend’s Juneteenth celebration in Seaside, pointing out that the symbolism of the holiday — celebrating diversity, equal opportunity, dignity and respect — aligns with the mission and values of CSUMB.

Steven Goings, a CSUMB faculty member and counselor in the Personal Growth and Counseling Center, agrees and sees common cause with the values of inclusion and mutual respect.

“I think all Americans, and all citizens of the world for that matter, can celebrate the end of the worst form of what many have called America’s original sin – slavery,” Goings says. “This is an example of America’s potential for self-improvement in our quest to become a more perfect union.”

Goings curates and disseminates the Black Folks Calendar, the aim of which is “to connect the Black community of CSU Monterey Bay with the local Black communities of the greater Monterey Bay area.”

He’s rounded up several local Juneteenth events, including a virtual “Juneteenth Freedom Jam” facilitated by Dr. Kamilah Majied, a professor in CSUMB’s Department of Social Work. It takes place 3 - 6 p.m. on June 18, the day before Juneteenth, and is described as “a relaxing space [for Black people] to recover from racism and rejoice in Blackness.”

Goings is the membership chair of the Monterey County Branch of the NAACP, and says fellow members will be attending two free, local Juneteenth celebrations: in Seaside and Salinas.

The one in Seaside — featuring entertainment, speakers, food, info booths and special guests including Yvonne Thomas, Billy Deberry, Ruthie Watts and Simeon Etoria — has CSUMB alumni involvement in Rosalyn Green. Goings says she is on the board of trustees for Monterey Peninsula College, is chair of the NAACP education committee, and a member of the CSUMB Center for Black Student Success advisory board.

And one of the organizers of the inaugural Salinas Juneteenth — featuring food, vendors, and the Monterey Peninsula Gospel Community Choir — is Asya Guillory. She graduated from CSUMB in 2003, worked from 2007 to 2017 in the Service Learning Institute and the Office of Early Outreach & Support Programs, and is a case manager at the CSUMB’s Community Health Engagement.

“It's important to feel as if you are seen, that you as a person have more to contribute than just a diversity quota,” Guillory says. “The other important piece is to realize that we have such a rich myriad of what Blackness looks like.”

She describes Black people in Salinas as a “minority among minorities” whose lives and contributions she hopes to elevate.

That includes people like Delores Scaife-Higgins, Salinas’s first Black city council member; Edd Armstrong, who has served in the Salinas Union High School District for 50+ years; and entrepreneur and Salinas State Farm Insurance CEO Willette Jones.

“If nothing else comes from Juneteenth besides some barbecue, good music and a safe space to rejoice in our resilience and history,” Guillory says, “then we as a Black community will be seen, and this is a gift that we are bringing to our communities.”

Seaside’s Juneteenth is 1 - 4 p.m. Saturday, June 19, at Laguna Grande Park in Seaside.

1st Annual Salinas Juneteenth Celebration is 1 - 4 p.m. Saturday, June 19, at Salinas Sports Complex and Rodeo Grounds in Salinas.

Santa Cruz Juneteenth is 1 - 4 p.m. Saturday, June 19, at Laurel Park in Santa Cruz.