Letter: Juneteenth can lead to needed change

June 19 marks the 157th anniversary of Juneteenth, a celebration of the abolishment of slavery. It was on this day in 1865 that Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, proclaiming the good news to enslaved African Americans that they were now free. Although Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation had officially ended slavery in the confederacy, enforcement depended on the advancement of Union Troops. Consequently, many enslaved Americans carried on their servitude - even after the Civil War ended - not yet knowing they were free.

While Juneteenth has been celebrated in Black communities for over 150 years, it was not officially recognized as a federal holiday until 2021. I am pleased to see many companies - including Western Governors University, where I work - recognize Juneteenth as a holiday for employees, while placing emphasis on advancing equity throughout the year.

As a Black man who has devoted his career to higher education and ensuring underserved community members have the tools they need to succeed in life, Juneteenth is very important to me. It reminds me that more needs to be done to erase the inequalities resulting from decades of discrimination and unfair treatment. I firmly believe - through my current work and prior positions with City Colleges of Chicago - that access to affordable higher education is key to breaking down these barriers for marginalized individuals.

As we observe Juneteenth and contemplate all that remains to be done, take time to reflect and consider working to enact change. That change can start with learning more about Juneteenth or implementing positive actions that result in equality.

Terrance Hopson, Regional Director, Western Governors University

Orland Park,

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