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Juneteenth Block Party

CMU and the Grand Junction community celebrate freedom at Lincoln Park

On a beautiful spring day in downtown Grand Junction, Colorado Mesa University staff and students joined the third annual Juneteenth Block Party was hosted by the local nonprofit organization Black Citizens and Friends. The event took place on Saturday, June 17 from 2-5pm ahead of the official Juneteenth holiday on June 19 and featured food trucks, dancing, live music including a performance by Kipori “Baby Wolf” Woods, guest speakers, activities and a pop-up museum. This year’s keynote address was delivered by Development Director at the Colorado Prevention Center Shawn Davis. Winners of the Black Citizens and Friends Business of the Year award and the Josephine Taylor Dickey Teacher Appreciation Award were announced and for those that rode their bikes to the event, Pastor Valerie Carlson of the American Lutheran Church provided bicycle blessings.

In recognition of the Juneteenth holiday and in support of the community group Black Citizens and Friends, CMU hosted a booth at this year’s Juneteenth Block Party. The booth featured a miniature library of books courtesy of the Tomlinson Library related to the history of Juneteenth, Black liberation and prominent literary works by Black authors. The library also posted a curated reading list on their website in celebration of Juneteenth. Instructions on how to access the books free of charge in electronic format for CMU staff and students as well as community members who have access through Mesa County Libraries is available on the library’s website.

The CMU booth also provided resources to help people in the community find local hair artists that specialize in protective styles such as braids or locs — something that many new CMU students not from the area search for  when they first arrive to Grand Junction. Additionally, members of CMU’s Cultural Inclusion Council and CMU’s Real Talk: Belonging group were at the booth to answer questions for incoming students.

CMU Coordinator of Student Belonging Ta’Lor Jackson explained some of the ways in which CMU is working to build a community that is a model of the world we want to create.

“We’ve rolled out three different Real Talk committees to provide programming around those areas that are sometimes difficult to discuss. The three areas are mental health, gender and sexuality, and belonging. The committees are made up of a diverse range of student, staff, faculty and community members who are passionate about creating an equitable and inclusive experience on campus for people of all backgrounds and identities,” said Jackson. “For me a human scale campus is a journey rather than a destination, and the goal is for the committees to raise that campus engagement to foster a sense of belonging that’s needed by all humans.”

In an email inviting staff and students to join the Juneteenth celebration, CMU President John Marshall highlighted the importance of education when working to combat oppression in our world today and when addressing the lingering impacts that slavery has on the Black community and America.

“June 19, 1865, was the day when slaves in the state of Texas learned they were free — nearly two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. This time gap of knowledge between when Black people were legally free, and when they learned of this fact, reminds us that curing injustice requires more than a moment in time, or the stroke of a pen. The struggle against oppression warrants constant attention and requires the passing of knowledge to people who don’t have access,” wrote Marshall. “CMU lives by the creed that we are a Human Scale University, that this campus is a model of the world we want to create. Building such a world requires we embody the values that call us to extend love and dignity to everyone who shares in our democratic society, and to work to extend those same principles to those who remain oppressed today.”

In addition to exploring the curated reading list linked above, Jackson encourages staff, students and community members interested in learning how to best extend love and dignity to build relationships and engage in dialogue.

“You can easily get involved, whether that is by joining one of the three Real Talk committees on campus or finding a club/organization where you can engage in the ways that make sense for you. We have so many talented people on our campus from students, to faculty and staff. The goal is to bring those talents together, so others have the opportunity to learn,” said Jackson.

More information about upcoming events and ways to get involved can be found on CMU’s Belonging and Inclusion website.

Prior to this event, CMU Director of Public Relations Kelsey Coleman sat down with Black Citizens and Friends President David Combs to record a CMUnow podcast during the KAFM Community Affairs Hour titled Championing Freedom and the Transferring of Knowledge. In this podcast episode, Combs discusses the history of Juneteenth and how the community is celebrating its third annual Block Party. Also on the show, CMU alumna and beach volleyball national champion Ara Norwood speaks about perseverance and passing on good sportsmanship to the next generation of student athletes.

Colorado Mesa University · Championing Freedom and Transferring Knowledge

To listen to other CMUnow podcasts, including special editions, visit CMUnow on Spotify or listen wherever you get your podcasts.


Written by Giff Walters