Babson Celebrates Juneteenth During Historic Black Lives Matter Movement

“This moment feels kind of different, like a type of turning point,” opened Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer Sadie Burton-Goss at Babson’s first virtual, community-wide Juneteenth celebration. 

A turning point filled with heartbreak, anger, and frustration. A turning point filled with hope. 

“Like 1954, when the country decided it was illegal to have segregated schools … like 1964, when we acknowledged that it was illegal to say our citizens could not vote in this country … like the march on Washington … like the decisions that were made this week by the Supreme Court overturning past decisions about rights for the LGBTQ community and for dreamers. This feels different,” said Burton-Goss.

More Than a Moment

Led by well-known leaders and allies of Babson’s Black community, this Juneteenth celebration was filled with motivation, education, and action-based authority. 

“This is a time to reflect on the past, but more importantly, to focus on the future … the changes that have already been made, and the impact we can truly have,” said Amanda Strong ‘87, Babson Trustee and chair of the College’s first committee on diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Proud of the accomplishments Babson has made thus far, and even more hopeful for its future, Strong shared that the College has its most diverse board in Babson history, a new special interest living community called The Johnson House for its Black Student Union (BSU), and three committees focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion

This year, BSU also is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

The Road to Freedom That Equality Follows

But, with any progress, there must be continued momentum. 

“Experience has taught us over and over again that there’s much more to do,” said keynote speaker Aaron Walton ‘83, CEO of Walton Isaacson. “The road to freedom that equality follows is bumpy and twisted, it curves unexpectedly and detours or derails. … Our journey, while filled with joy and achievements, is also not for the faint of heart.”

“On this day, Black Lives Matter, as they have for 400 years and since the beginning of time,” said Vice President of Programming and Community Outreach Jane Edmonds. Before leading attendees through an exercise and discussion on the weight of the current world awakening, Edmonds spoke to the importance of a community-wide commitment. 

The road to freedom that equality follows is bumpy and twisted. … Experience has taught us over and over again that there’s much more to do.”

Aaron Walton '83, CEO of Walton Isaacson

“We need to commit, really seriously commit to active allyship. Each and every one of us can take a step toward justice and at the end of the day, it is our very actions that reveal what’s in our hearts and minds,” said Edmonds.

Action there will be, promises current BSU President Jaylen Bell ’21.

“When there is no vision, the people shall perish,” said Bell. “The wealth gap that we are experiencing … and the systemic forces that allow for it to happen, they shall be closed 50 Juneteenths from now … in BSU’s 100-year anniversary.”

Such a vision, said Bell, must also come with accountability and shared purpose. 

“It will be more difficult if diversity and inclusion is not embodied by all faculty, students, and staff. If those same individuals are not continuously trained and held accountable as it pertains to that core value … and it will be even more difficult if society continues to be desensitized to racial injustice and systemic oppression,” said Bell. 

“We need to commit, really seriously commit to active allyship.”

Jane Edmonds, Vice President of Programming and Community Outreach

Advised by Vice President of Learner Success and Dean of Campus Life Lawrence P. Ward to “lead with authenticity” and “to lean on others,” Bell thanked countless members of the community, including alumni, staff, faculty, the Black Affinity Network, the Office of Multicultural and Identity Programs, and the 81 student organizations and athletics teams that stepped up to organize a fundraiser to support Black Lives Matter.

“When we look 50 Juneteenths from now, on June 19, 2070, our ancestors (will) cry tears of joy … because they see economic development and systematic reform through the power of entrepreneurship,” closed Bell. “The only way we can truly get there is through unity and leaning on one another.”

Additional speakers included Arts and Humanities Professor Elizabeth Swanson, and Director of Multicultural and Identity Programs Patrick Hale, as well as a recorded version of The Black National Anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by the Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet School in Nashville, and breakout sessions for community members to converse with one another about Juneteenth’s past, present, and future. 

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