Juneteenth celebrates the abolition of chattel slavery in the United States of America in 1865. As we commemorate the anniversary of this glorious event on the precipice of Independence Day, we implore you to reappraise the true cost of the American dream. According to the Declaration of Independence, all humans are guaranteed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Instead, white supremacy has robbed Black Americans of their rights using lynching, sharecropping, redlining, voter suppression, mass incarceration, environmental racism and healthcare disparities.
One hundred fifty-five years have passed since Union Army Major General Gordon Granger first arrived in Galveston, Texas to inform former slaves of their emancipation. However, the bonds of systemic racism still shackle our communities today. The 13th Amendment states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Thus, the Constitution supports slavery as a consequence for crime. Because African Americans only make up 13 percent of the U.S. population yet account for 37 percent of the U.S. incarcerated population, it seems as if Blackness is enough to fulfill the criteria for a ‘lawful’ “convict[ion].” Despite the Founding Fathers’ affinity for liberal ideals, they made anti-Blackness foundational to the American consciousness by weaving racism into all of our institutions: educational, economic, housing, judicial, medical and political.
Though these systems were built to hinder us, we have used them to fuel our pursuit of happiness. We, Sisterhood and The Society of the Griffins aim to combat oppression by unifying, supporting and empowering our community while amplifying our intersectional voices. We have joined our voices in making this statement to acknowledge the significance of Juneteenth by celebrating our victories, learning from our losses, and thriving as a collective. It is in this spirit of solidarity that our two groups have recently decided to come together to cultivate our kinship and provide visibility to Black students and alumni within the Williams community.
Oluwatoyin Salau, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, Riah Milton, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin. These are just some of the many names among countless others, martyred in America due to a culture of police violence and negligence. We call on these names to remind you that Black Lives Matter and justice has yet to be served for the use of terrorism and brutality against Black and Brown bodies. On this day of celebration, it is with heavy hearts but enlightened spirits that we, the members of Sisterhood and The Society of the Griffins, embrace the long journey ahead towards our liberation.
Sisterhood is a campus group that works to “empower its members by instilling a sense of camaraderie amongst black/POC women and by supporting black/POC women as they navigate the world as a double minority.” The Society of the Griffins is a “student led affinity organization that is dedicated to preparing minority men for the professional environment post-Williams, as well promoting and establishing responsibility in the minority community on and around campus.”