Juneteenth Conference Focuses on Building Capacity for Freedom

The word "Juneteenth" is seen in gold letters on a flag with horizontal bars of red, black and green
Image by Wynn Pointaux/Pixabay

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 10, 2021) — A two-day conference next week to commemorate and celebrate Juneteenth will culminate in an overnight sleep-out that includes the reading of names of enslaved Africans who survived the journey from West Africa to the Americas.

The University is hosting the inaugural Capital Region Juneteenth Conference and Sigma Sleep-out for Social Justice on June 17 and 18. The virtual conference, with the theme “Building Capacity for African Freedom in the Americas and Beyond,” includes sessions on racism as a public health issue; equity, diversity and inclusion in education; and resources for self-discovery. The sleep-out, on Dutch Quad, will begin at 9 p.m. Friday, June 18, and conclude at 6 a.m. Saturday, June 19, which is Juneteenth.

Juneteenth is the oldest commemorated celebration of the abolishment of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger and his Union soldiers landed in Texas with news that the Civil War had ended and that enslaved people were free — two and a half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. For many, this marked the true end of slavery in the United States.

Dignitaries taking part in next week’s conference include President Rodríguez, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, New York Rep. Alicia Hyndman and Sen. Kevin Parker, who sponsored the bill making Juneteenth a state holiday.

Speakers include Darrell Wheeler, the provost of Iona College and former dean of UAlbany’s School of Social Welfare; Jennifer Burns, a lecturer in UAlbany’s Department of Africana Studies; and naval Capt. Hassan A. Tetteh, a cardiothoracic surgeon and author of “The Art of Human Care” book series.

Also making opening remarks will be UAlbany's interim Chief Diversity Officer Samuel Caldwell and Roberto Peguero, assistant director of alumni outreach and development and the CEO of Crescent Community Charities (CCC), a non-profit community service organization that also hosts youth mentoring programs called Sigma Beta clubs. Peguero is organizing the Sigma Sleep-out for Social Justice, which is also a fund-raiser for Albany Medical Center’s Melodies Center for Childhood Cancer and its research on sickle cell disease, as well as for the H. Danston Davis Swimming Scholarships Fund.

“This conference celebrates and commemorates the Africans in America who made our freedom possible, while also raising awareness and appreciation for freedom movements across the globe,” said Ekow King, assistant to the vice president for student affairs for diversity, equity and inclusion, and the primary event organizer. King said the plan is for the conference to become an annual event.

Co-sponsors include Crescent Community Charities, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, the office of state Sen. Kevin Parker, and the YMCA.

There is no fee to attend the conference but donations are encouraged to support research into sickle cell disease. Registration is through Hop-In. You can also register in advance to attend the sleep-out.