Campus Life

UWF Juneteenth Celebration honors freedom and fellowship

Juneteenth, like Independence Day, is a day to celebrate freedom throughout the nation. The University of West Florida Black Employees Association commemorated this day this year on June 18 as they always do by inviting the campus as well as the local area to come together to celebrate with good food, good music and friendship.

Though the Emancipation Proclamation was issued Jan. 1, 1863, word of the newfound freedom of African-Americans was slow to spread throughout the nation. Finally, two and a half years after the decree was made, Union Gen. Gordon Granger finally reached Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, with the news that all slaves in the United States had been freed. Now, 145 years later, Juneteenth serves as an annual celebration of the day that the United States became a truly free nation.

“The response of those slaves in Texas could have been negative, but not one instance that I’ve heard of said there was anything negative in their response,” said Alesia Ross, coordinator of the event, “They said let’s now move on and do what’s positive.”

This is precisely the attitude that UWF’s 11th annual Juneteenth celebration embodied. Free food and drinks served by volunteers from the Black Employees Association accompanied live music as people from the area congregated to celebrate together.

Among the performers for the day was the Pensacola Youth Steel Orchestra, a group of young musicians led by Harold Foster, adding a tropical flair to the festivities. Another musical guest, Austin Paul Jr., is a 15-year-old saxophonist from Washington High School who shared his jazz music with those gathered. Shanarial Johnson, a singer and rising star from Pensacola High School, also performed. All performers showcased the promising young talent Pensacola has to offer.

The event drew many from the community who came together to celebrate and even those passing by who had never heard of Juneteeth stopped and shared in this piece of history.

“What I really want everyone to take away from this holiday,” said Ross, “Is that it’s not about a particular culture, it’s about positivity. It’s an opportunity to progress, that’s what Juneteenth is all about.”

To learn more about Juneteenth, visit For more information on the UWF Black Employees Association, visit

By Kelly Dieckmann, University Marketing Communications