5 Ways Rollins is Commemorating Juneteenth

June 15, 2021

By Elsa Wenzel

A grid of images depicting Black students engaged on campus and in our community.

Freedom Day. Jubilation Day. Black Independence Day. The nicknames for Juneteenth share a spirit of joy and remembrance, marking the end of slavery 156 years ago.

Last year, Rollins President Grant Cornwell declared Juneteenth an official holiday as part of the College’s commitment to racial equity, a direct response to the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Even in this celebration, we recognize the injustices of this history and the continued injustices occurring in our nation,” says Abby Hollern, director of Rollins’ Center for Inclusion & Campus Involvement. “At Rollins, we’re committed to doing our part to ensure a more equitable future.”

Juneteenth commemorates the reading of federal orders in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, proclaiming all slaves in Texas were finally free. The orders came more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, ending Confederate holdouts once and for all. Celebrations of Juneteenth date back to 1866, and activists have long called for the day to be recognized as a national holiday.

“I’ll be in the community supporting Black businesses from morning to night, and I encourage all Black people and their allies alike to get out and explore,” says Teasa Mays, Rollins’ assistant director for diversity and inclusion, who celebrated last year by dining at Soul Food Fantasy in historic Eatonville and shopping at the Three Masks gift shop in Orlando. “So it’s not a day off,” she says, “it’s definitely a day on.”

Carley Matthews ’22, president of Rollins’ Black Student Union, also plans to support small Black-owned businesses in addition to cooking out at a local park and drinking strawberry soda.

“Red foods at Juneteenth celebrations represent the perseverance of Afro-Americans and also remind us of our roots in Africa,” she says. “This holiday is important to me because I feel that there is a lot I still don’t know. It’s always an opportunity to reflect, learn, and show my gratefulness for the people who endured the horrors of slavery, persevered, and resisted.”

From speakers and performances to podcasts and workshops, here are a few of the ways the Rollins community is commemorating this important day in history and celebrating the enduring vibrancy of Black culture.


Let’s Get Literary

Rollins’ Center for Inclusion & Campus Involvement will debut the first episode of its Let’s Get Literary podcast with discussions about the book On Juneteenth by the distinguished Harvard University historian Annette Gordon-Reed. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s new release is a sweeping historical panorama that reminds readers of the lingering barriers to racial equity.

Hosts include Samantha Vega in the Center for Inclusion & Campus Involvement, associate director of internal communications Jen Atwell ’11, and Kourtnie Berry ’12, Rollins assistant women’s basketball coach and recruiting coordinator who recently received Rollins’ 2021 Presidential Award for Diversity & Inclusion and a Diversity in Business award from the Orlando Business Journal. The conversation will touch on the current state of racial justice, racial dynamics in Texas, and court cases involving school integration.

Tune in via Spotify or Apple podcasts.


Black Music Month: Virtual Talks

Ragtime, the Motown sound, the hip-hop movement.

“We call it Black music, but I think we do it a disservice because it is the American experience and not just people with our skin color,” says Ruth Edwards, Rollins adjunct professor of sexuality, women’s, and gender studies and director of education at the Winter Park Library.

She’s taking a deep dive into the history and nuances of Black American music in a conversation with Berklee College of Music professor Jarritt Ahmed Sheel.

It’s common knowledge that February is Black History Month, but few realize that President Jimmy Carter designated June as Black Music Month in 1979.

“If you want to know what people are going through, just listen to the music,” says Sheel.

Catch more of their conversation on the Winter Park Library’s YouTube channel.


Community Commemoration

A special in-person commemoration of Juneteenth in Winter Park will showcase live speakers and performances alongside local cuisine. The Hannibal Square Heritage Center, which safeguards our hometown’s Black heritage, will offer an opening reception of the exhibition, “Preserving the Past and Looking Towards the Future: A Celebration of Hannibal Square.”

Curated in part by Rollins alum Fairolyn Livingston ’83, chief historian of the Hannibal Square Heritage Center, the exhibition depicts the contributions of Winter Park’s African American community from 1900 to present, remembering, acknowledging, and preserving the legacy of historic Hannibal Square.

Host organizations of this all-day celebration include the Crealde School of Art, Hannibal Square Heritage Center, Winter Park Public Library, and Winter Park Parks and Recreation. The event is free to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Winter Park Community Center, just steps from campus at 721 W. New England Ave.


Juneteenth: A Celebration of Resilience

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture is offering an array of events spanning June 19 and 20. The virtual series kicks off with vocalist Rochelle Rice’s rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the “Negro National Anthem” written by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson and first performed in 1900 in Jacksonville, Florida.

A virtual workshop offers hands-on genealogy advice for tracing ancestors past 1870, and celebrated storyteller Diane Macklin will tell tales about the wisdom of the elders. There are picnic recipes and craft ideas for kids too.

Registration is not required for the free events, which are available on the National Museum of African American History & Culture’s website.


Barker Park Farmers Market

In Orlando, the weekly farmers market at George Barker Park—nestled on seven acres on the north shore of Clear Lake—will feature a special lineup to celebrate Juneteenth, including a health fair, double-dutch show, small business bootcamp, and an essay contest for elementary and high school students. Emceeing the event is Summer Knowles, an award-winning journalist and co-anchor of WESH 2 News who recently earned an Edward R. Murrow award for her work in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death last summer.

The event runs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., with music kicking off at 11 a.m., including gospel, jazz, R&B, Caribbean, and hip-hop. Learn more by visiting the City of Orlando’s website.

Aerial view of Rollins College

Racial Justice at Rollins

At Rollins, we’re committed to doing our part to advance racial justice. We’re here to learn, to listen, to convene, to create space for all voices to be heard, and to be part of the solutions.

Explore Racial Justice Resources