(Mass.gov) – Senator Eric P. Lesser was joined by Janine Fondon, Assistant Professor and Chair of Undergraduate Communications at Bay Path University and President/CEO of UnityFirst.com for a Lunchtime Livestream in celebration of Juneteenth. The livestream focused on the historical legacy and cultural implications behind the celebration of Juneteenth.
Janine Fondon was featured recently as a guest curator at the Springfield Museums with an exhibit titled Voices of Resilience: the Intersection of Women On the Move, which showcased intersecting womens’ voices in the history of Massachusetts and beyond. “I think there are many stories that really resonate…some of the personal heroes and she-ros that have emerged like my aunt Irene Morgan. A lot of people don’t realize that she won a Supreme Court Case regarding interstate busing ten years before Rosa Parks.” she said. “It was a complete honor to share some 70+ voices that were either little-known or basically unknown and to make some useful connections about the journey.”
She also drew connections to Western Massachusetts voices that were part of Juneteenth’s history and its push to become recognized as a holiday, including the acknowledgement of the two soldiers in the final emancipation party buried in Amherst. “I’m also encouraging people to look at the whole Massachusetts connection,” Fondon said. “The Juneteenth flag was created by an African American man in Massachusetts.”
Fondon also discussed the legislative push, aided by Dr. Amilcar Shabazz, that led to Juneteenth becoming adopted as an official state holiday during the last year—a measure which Senator Lesser voted in favor of.
The original bill, presented by Rep. Bud Williams, had seen little movement prior to 2020. “The George Floyd incident was profound in touching people in very different ways,” she said. “I, like many other people, [was] pulled into greater action just thinking about how that happened…and how do we move forward from that. It was a point of reflection when we saw that, and the world witnessed it and the world responded to it. And then to follow, Breonna Taylor, there were just so many in the line. We could not miss it.”
“A lot of that energy, I think, got folded in, and I think people began to think a little deeper about things that they can do,” Fondon continued. “I’m sure there were already some things in motion. It just became the right time, and I love the fact that people found purpose in looking at what was this terrible situation, and just like in Juneteenth, finding the promise of thinking about making a better future.”
In discussion of how Juneteenth was to be properly celebrated as a holiday, Fondon acknowledged that for everyone, the holiday was celebrated differently. “For me, it’s very action-oriented, recognizing not only the pain of history, but the promise of all of the collective things that we can do to make life better,” she said. “Be reflective about what it is you’re doing and how it kind of connects into respecting that holiday.”
Fondon concluded her thoughts with a quote by Sheila Jackson Lee: “Juneteenth must always remain a reminder to us all that liberty and freedom are the precious birthright of all Americans, which must be jealously guarded and preserved for future generations.”