Community Asked to Remember, Celebrate, Commit, at Juneteenth Prayer Service

Community Asked to Remember, Celebrate, Commit, at Juneteenth Prayer Service

People at a prayer service in the Egan Chapel

Fairfield University will observe the federal holiday that commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people on June 20. A prayer service, titled “Remember. Celebrate. Commit.” was held on Wednesday, June 15.

For the second year that Juneteenth has been a recognized national holiday, Fairfield University will again celebrate the African American community and the emancipation of enslaved people on June 20. A prayer service, titled “Remember. Celebrate. Commit.” was held on Wednesday, June 15, in commemoration of the day’s significance and the struggles, history, accomplishments, and progress of Black Americans.

“We believe this day is important to acknowledge because it allows us to reflect on the journey of justice within our world and honor those who have fought and stood for freedom of all humanity,” said Pejay Lucky, director of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. “I also believe it helps highlight a stain in our history that allowed silence of justice to continue the enslavement of a group of people.”

Rev. Paul Rourke, S.J., vice president for mission and ministry, opened the service with a call to prayer. Jocelyn Boryczka, PhD, vice provost for scholarly and inclusive excellence, read the Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863.

Lucky discussed the origins of Juneteenth, which commemorates June 19, 1865 — a date when, more than two years after the freedom of enslaved African Americans, the remote state of Texas was finally informed by Union soldiers that they were free.

History professors Elizabeth Hohl, PhD, and Anna Lawrence, PhD, discussed how many of the first enslaved people gained freedom by serving in the Union army. Afterward, freed enslaved people started local churches, clubs, and businesses, and began the long battle of reunification of family members from whom they had been separated during slavery.

In this service to “remember, celebrate, and commit,” Protestant Chaplain Rev. Jay Glover said that while the signing of documents and proclamations legally freed enslaved people from their prisons, it did not absolve the country of bigotry and prejudice.

“Let us remember to work towards the dismantling of mythical historical reflections that harm people's lives and stand in the way of justice,” said Rev. Glover. 

He quoted historian and author Jemar Tisby who said, “The past unavoidably impacts the present and if we want to pursue racial justice today, then we need to know what happened in the past to create the circumstances of the present. History provides the vital context to pursue solutions that are rooted in a firm understanding in the causes and consequences of racism.”

Mekaylia Ingram ’25 sang an a cappella version of the Black National Anthem, a more than 100-year-old hymn of  liberation and affirmation for African American people. The emotional anthem, titled “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” was written by James Weldon Johnson in 1900, and provided solace during a post-Civil War reconstruction era wrought with segregation and a hostile climate for those in the Black community.

“I hope this service has lit a flame in the hearts of our community to continue the ‘service of faith and justice’,” said Lucky. “I have continued to see a positive response from students that has affirmed that Fairfield is moving in a progressive direction concerning diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.”

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