"The whole soul of man is a sort of picture gallery, a grand panorama, in which all the great facts of the universe, in tracing things of time and things of eternity, are painted." ~Frederick Douglas
What Juneteenth Means to Me: A Photo Narrative
In honor of Juneteenth 2023, we reached out to the faculty, students, and staff of the School of Medicine, inviting them to share their personal reflections on the profound meaning of Juneteenth. We encourage you to explore the photo narratives below, which provide unique insights into the significance of this special day.
Stanton L. Gerson, MD
Dean, CWRU School of Medicine
Director, National Center for Regenerative Medicine
We invite you to view the following reflection video featuring Stan Gerson, MD, Dean of the School of Medicine, as he shares his insights on the significance of Juneteenth.
Tina Roan Lining, MS
Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Excellence, Office of the Dean, School of Medicine
On June 19, 1865, enslaved people in Texas finally found out that they had been freed from bondage. Even though President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation over two years earlier, Texas slaveholders had hidden that fact from the people they kept in chains. This year, we acknowledge that truth is no longer hidden; we have seen progress throughout the history of our nation.
We must continue to embrace that progress and understand, as per Fredrick Douglas, there is no progress without struggle. I encourage all, to let Juneteenth bring hope in the mist of struggle, at a time when the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to every American regardless of skin color, heritage or group is being threatened, again. Juneteenth serves as a great reminder that justice will prevail against the enemies of freedom, and equality. We must let love lead, as we embrace our commitment to serve diverse, equitable, inclusive cultures that acknowledges the unique experiences and contributions of all humanity. We must let freedom ring, ring with love, peace, joy, respect and appreciation of difference in communities.
Angelique Redus-McCoy, MD
Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, Office of Student Affairs, School of Medicine
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University Hospitals
Juneteenth reflects the reality of living Black in America, embodying both the struggle and the joy. Historically and in the present day, we often find ourselves living adjacent to freedom, without full access to it.
Even in 2023, freedom is elusive, whether it is the freedom to walk safely in our neighborhoods or to experience childbirth without fear of losing our lives to racism. Despite this somber reality, we still rise, thrive, and celebrate. We celebrate that despite structural obstacles, we carry the rich history and immense strength of our ancestors. We celebrate with the joy they prayed we would find.
Gelise Thomas, JD, MS
Assistant Director, Strategic DEI & Health Disparities, Clinical and Translational Science Collaborative
Juneteenth provides an opportunity for me to reflect on freedom and what it means, feels like, and is to be free. As a wife, mother, sister, and friend, I view freedom as the ability to enjoy. Enjoying each other’s company, exploring the world around and within us—near and far, and taking every opportunity to literally and figuratively toast to all things that make life “good.” As a colleague and diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility professional, freedom is all of the above plus a heightened responsibility to be compassionately curious, relentlessly inclusive, and fearless in advocacy for all who have been historically excluded from places and spaces that I have the privilege of occupying and influencing.
Monica Yepes-Rios, MD
Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Students
Associate Professor of Medicine, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine
In only very recent history has the country come to celebrate the anniversary of the rights of freedom we take as a given, but only granted to all slaves on June 19, 1865. This day of celebration recognizes the history of our country, the quest to drive for equality in the rights of freedom, and the responsibility we all have to drive equity in the opportunities we afford to all. Today, it means we recognize the history of structural racism, and how we, as a School and healthcare institutions, can and are making a difference in the diversity of our students and healthcare workforce, in equity in professional development and care of patients and communities, and in inclusion with a lens of cultural humility in the care of diverse communities. Please join us in our Juneteenth celebrations!
Department Assistant II, SOM Office of Student Affairs
Juneteenth holds deep personal significance for me as an African American woman in various roles. As a young mother, it represents the opportunity to educate my child about his history, instilling pride in his heritage. As a daughter, it acknowledges the sacrifices and struggles of my ancestors, honoring their resilience.
As a student, it reminds me of the ongoing pursuit of knowledge and understanding of my cultural identity. As an admin, it inspires me to promote diversity, inclusivity, and equity in my work. Juneteenth empowers me to navigate the complexities of my multifaceted identity and amplifies my commitment to fostering a better future for myself and my community.
Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Medical Education, School of Medicine
"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it." ~The Talmud
Juneteenth is a moment of both celebration and reflection; a time to commemorate the emancipation of 250,000 enslaved Black people, months after the end of the Civil War, marking the end of the dehumanizing and violent institution of slavery. I rejoice in the freedom that was finally granted to Black Americans. Simultaneously, Juneteenth invites deep contemplation and action. I see the post-June 19, 1865 period as a chronicle of the struggles and setbacks, but also the joy and possibilities in our ongoing quest to establish a society rooted in justice, inclusivity, and love.
I am inspired by our medical students who are committed to embodying the core principles of Martin Luther King Jr's vision of a Beloved Community. These students embrace nonviolent communication, fostering understanding, dialogue, and reconciliation. Juneteenth provides an opportunity for me to serve as a thought partner and champion, supporting students in their pursuit of intentional, authentic, and faithful engagement in our broader community. Juneteenth compels me to reflect on ways I can support and empower them as they continue to be 'rock stars' in their tireless pursuit of racial justice.
Student, University Program (Class of 2026), School of Medicine
The essence of Juneteenth invokes emotion. As an American descendant of slavery, I am struck with pride and happiness at how far we, as a country, have come. Yet, I recognize Juneteenth as an opportunity to reflect on our problematic history, realizing how much further we have to go. Therefore, to me, Juneteenth is a renewed call to actualize what true freedom and justice should be for all.