Regis community gathers for Mission Commitment Day ahead of Juneteenth

The life and writing of James Baldwin guided Regis faculty and staff through the University’s first Mission Commitment Day, hosted in honor of the Juneteenth holiday.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1885, the day when more than 250,000 enslaved people in Texas learned of their freedom — two years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation ordering their freedom.

Baldwin, one of the 20th century’s most influential writers, explored racial and social issues in his work. To gain a deeper understanding of his life, faculty and staff watched and discussed the film I Am Not Your Negro, a 2016 documentary that imagines and expands upon what would have been his next book. In 1979, eight years before his death, Baldwin told his literary agent that the project would be a personal account of the lives and assassinations of icons and his close friends Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a Jesuit Catholic institution, Regis is responsible for educating the campus community about historic and systemic racism. During the Mission Commitment Day, the Regis community gathered as Vice President of Student Affairs Barbara Wilcots, Ph.D., presented a lecture on Baldwin’s life, from his perspective on America after living in Paris to his lasting impact today during the Black Lives Matter movement.

After viewing the film, small groups gathered to ponder important questions: What were Baldwin’s contributions — both in the current moment of “racial reckoning” and historically?  What are some commitments, resolutions, promises or vows individuals can make to use their power, privilege and platforms of power to give space to Black and Brown leaders?

To end the day, the Regis community took the opportunity to visit museums and explore educational resources, including articles describing the importance of Juneteenth, Frederick Douglass’ 1852 speech What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? and recordings featuring the voices and stories of former slaves.