Skip to main content

Gannon community gathers in Juneteenth celebration

Published: 06/20/2022

Gannon faculty, students and staff on the Erie and Ruskin campuses joined together today to celebrate Juneteenth, marked by fellowship, food, and education - featuring Gannon alumnus and OpenedEyes founder and director Brandon Wiley ’10, ‘13M.

Gannon faculty, students and staff on the Erie and Ruskin campuses joined together today to celebrate Juneteenth, marked by fellowship, food, and education - featuring Gannon alumnus and OpenedEyes founder and director Brandon Wiley ’10, ‘13M.

Gannon faculty, students and staff on the Erie and Ruskin campuses joined together today to celebrate Juneteenth, marked by fellowship, food, and education - featuring Gannon alumnus and OpenedEyes founder and director Brandon Wiley ’10, ‘13M.

Juneteenth began with the freedom of enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, it couldn’t be enforced in many places until the end of the Civil War in 1863.

“I want to home in on the fact that the day marks not necessarily the day they were freed, but importantly, the day they knew they were freed. It had been two years since the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, but that doesn't mean that they all knew that they were free until the end of the war,” said Wiley. “We also call Juneteenth Freedom Day or Jubilee Day, or Juneteenth Independence Day. And so, the national reckoning that we're experiencing over race has helped set the stage for Juneteenth to become the first federal holiday since 1983.”

In his remarks, Wiley noted that while the acknowledgment and celebration of Juneteenth as a national holiday is a great first step, “we all know too well the work that needed to be done to get to that point and the work that still needs to be done today.”

“This brings me to an idea that we as a people are lacking in something that you would think would be very basic – and that’s human principles. Basic human needs. Love, respect, equality, equity, and honor. The idea that while hard work and dedication is in fact needed to grow, having the opportunities, support and resources is also a major indicator of success and advancement. The assumption is that everybody has, especially in our black and brown communities, is that the resources are there. There's a difference between the resources being there and the awareness of those resources… If you really want to connect with people, you have to meet them where they are.”

Wiley emphasized this importance of meeting one another where they are, then building together.

“When I think about Juneteenth, I think about that. Building together. America is based on what - the principles of freedom. That's what Juneteenth is about in 2022. Right now, we have found ourselves in a cultural war that is ripping our communities and our country apart. In the same breath, there is a lot of beauty and collaboration that is happening in our country. It's important to acknowledge both of those things, the good and the bad in every facet.”

Wiley, whose nonprofit OpenedEyes focuses on enhancing cultural competence on an individual, organizational and systemic level, spoke to his own experience of taking something asked of him when he was a small child, “What are you?” and reframed it from something negative that made him feel other or less-than into something positive. His team is dedicated to increasing hope, enhancing educational and environmental awareness, and improving community connections.

Attendees enjoyed a Q&A discussion with our speaker, as well as foods curated by the Metz Culinary Team to honor the tradition of cuisine traditionally shared during Juneteenth gatherings, including red foods, barbecue, and soul food.  

Follow @gannonu on social for more.

All media inquiries can be made by contacting Haley Figurski, Media Relations and Marketing Manager, at 814-823-1886.