On June 19, the inaugural commemoration of the Juneteenth federal holiday was held at the University of Arizona. Juneteenth commemorates the arrival of General Gordon Granger to Galveston, Texas, to deliver the message of the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. To celebrate the 158th Juneteenth, an audience gathered at Centennial Hall to remember the history, resilience and culture of Black people and communities.

Two special guest speakers, Dr. Ilyasah Shabazz and Dr. Bernice King, came to discuss their work to preserve and build upon their parents’ legacies. King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, is a global thought leader, orator, peace advocate and CEO of The King Center. She is also an attorney and author. Her recent children’s book is “It Starts with Me.” Shabazz is the daughter of civil rights activist Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz. She is an award-winning author, educator and chairperson of The Shabazz Center.

The Beyond Legacy: The Next Generation of Justice and Action event included a fireside chat, led by King, Shabazz and Denise TrimbleSmith. Other guests included moderator Treya Allen, U of A President Robert Robbins, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero, Pastor Amos Lewis and Imam Hassan Ali from my own community center, the Muslim Community Center of Tucson.

King and Shabazz noted the importance of women in legacy work. Both noted how their mothers aided in their fathers’ work. King noted, “I don’t know any man that has a legacy that doesn’t have a woman behind it.”

 While discussing education, Shabazz noted that scientists have surmised that life began in Africa. She said it is important for all students to learn Black history because it is American history.

When asked what they would say to their younger selves, Shabazz said she would advise her teen self to be patient. “It is very important to find your voice at a young age,” according to Shabazz. It was an exceptional opportunity for me to hear the words and advice of such knowledgeable women in person.

PHOTO: UA Beyond Juneteenth

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