June is a celebration of diversity and inclusion

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A young person wearing a mask holds a small pride flag while talking to two men whose backs are to the camera
A member of Common Ground holds a Pride flag during the 2021 Diversity Day on Cruz Plaza.

As June ends, we have many events, holidays and people to celebrate. June is Pride Month and Caribbean American Heritage Month; and this year Juneteenth, observed annually on June 19, was declared a federal holiday.

In recognition of Pride Month, I would like to highlight campus organizations that are making a difference by advocating and raising awareness for Mercer University’s LGBTQ+ population. There are several groups dedicated to LGBTQ+ support, allyship and education, including Mercer URGE, Common Ground and Rainbow Connection.

Mercer URGE is a campus organization committed to uniting people for reproductive and gender equity at Mercer. It is also an official URGE chapter.

Common Ground is Mercer’s official LGBTQ+ and ally organization dedicated to building awareness and encouraging discussion of sexual and gender diversity. Common Ground was recognized with the 2020 inaugural Diversity and Inclusion Excellence Award for Outstanding Student Organization due to its dedication to building awareness and encouraging discussion of sexuality and gender diversity through hosting and creating Rainbow Connection training and panels, organizing HIV testing, and more.

“Rainbow Connection is a Common Ground initiative created to provide Mercer faculty and staff with information on how to support LGBTQ+ students and colleagues,” according to the group. “As a student-led committee, Rainbow Connection aims to highlight solutions to problems faced by LGBTQ+ students at Mercer University.”

The goal of Rainbow Connections’ Canvas-based training course is to give faculty and staff a better understanding of how to support students as well as provide a space for them to ask specific questions they may have.

Faculty and staff may enroll in this course to learn about:

  • Common issues for LGBTQ+ students
  • Gender-neutral language and using students’ pronouns
  • Identifying and avoiding microaggressions
  • Terms and definitions
  • Responding to anti-LGBTQ+ language and behavior
  • Implementing allyship and resources for LGBTQ+ people

Last year, Student Affairs staff members completed the Rainbow Connection training, and this June they attended a training presentation titled “Supporting Transgender Students” by Dr. Stephanie Mooring, director of the Academic Resource Center and me.

Looking ahead, the Macon Pride Festival will be held Sept. 23-26. The purpose of Macon Pride is to advance the unity, visibility and self-esteem among LGBTQIA+ people and their allies as well as to promote a positive image in the Middle Georgia area through community activities and service. Several of Mercer’s faculty, staff and student organizations anticipate participating in the four-day celebration.

Celebrate Caribbean American Heritage Month

Caribbean American Heritage Month was established in June 2006 to celebrate the contributions of Caribbean Americans to the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Interior.

Ninety percent of Caribbean people came from five countries: Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti, and Trinidad and Tobago, and the largest Caribbean communities are located in New York, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Texas, and California.

Caribbean Carnival will take place the 2022 Memorial Day weekend in Atlanta.

Here at Mercer, the official student organization celebrating Caribbean heritage is the Caribbean Students Association.

“CSA is a student-run organization, determined to expose the Caribbean culture and lifestyle to the Macon campus,” according to the group. “The Caribbean perspective is one of power and pride, and it is our pleasure to share this with the Mercer student body.”

In April, the Caribbean Student Association celebrated CaribFest with food, carnival games and a cricket match.

Juneteenth established as federal holiday

This year we witnessed the establishment of Juneteenth as a federal holiday. But the history of Juneteenth began more than 165 years ago.

On June 19, 1865, enslaved African Americans were notified of their freedom by Union troops in Galveston, Texas — two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. This day is widely celebrated as the end of chattel slavery in the U.S., according to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Juneteenth marks a time of celebration and remembrance. To commemorate Juneteenth, communities celebrate by having parades, going to festivals, hosting barbecues and coming together in fellowship and prayer.

Mercer’s Educational Opportunity Center participated in a Juneteenth celebration as a part of the educational resource fair in Milledgeville.

While Juneteenth marks our country’s second Independence Day, we will celebrate the Fourth of July as America’s first Independence Day this week.

On July 4, 1776, the United States of America proclaimed its independence from England with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The holiday is usually celebrated with fireworks, barbecues, political speeches, concerts and parades across the United States.

 

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Dr. Ansley Booker is director of diversity and inclusion initiatives at Mercer University.