‘Thriving Together’: Babson Commemorates Juneteenth

Tanisha Sullivan poses for a portrait

Celebrating together. Achieving together. Thriving together.  

The Babson College community joined together last week to commemorate Juneteenth as a day of reflection, celebration, and, most importantly, action. 

Tanisha Sullivan—the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Boston Branch—delivered the keynote address. She was delighted that the program theme, “Thriving Together,” also was the same theme as the NAACP national convention last year in Boston. 

“I embrace that theme as a life mantra because thriving together is the embodiment of freedom,” Sullivan said, adding Juneteenth calls on us to not only celebrate and commemorate the day but to take action “that speaks to the true purpose of the day.” 

“I want to encourage each of us to find something that you can do,” she said, “something that your community can do to help move us closer to a day when we are all truly thriving together.” 

In his welcome remarks, President Stephen Spinelli Jr. MBA’92, PhD emphasized Babson’s strength in acting and achieving together to fulfill that charge. 

“Babson may have a unique opportunity to foster our collective and proprietary understanding of and commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging,” he said. “Each member of our campus has the real power to open minds, heal wounds, restore divides, and sow unity. Babson remains undeterred in our mission to prepare and empower a diverse array of entrepreneurial leaders.” 

‘True Inclusion’ 

Sullivan praised Babson for its work and leadership in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, as more than 100 students, staff, faculty, and alumni attended the virtual event individually and in watch parties last week to commemorate the Juneteenth national holiday. 

“This is a community that truly understands the significance of the day,” she said. 

Sullivan singled out Spinelli, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer Sadie Burton-Goss, and the College’s leadership. “It is critically important that leadership is supporting those efforts,” she said, “and it is clear, not just in word but in what we’re seeing through action, that your leadership is visionary, and not just supportive, but actively engaged in outcomes that speak to true inclusion.” 

“This is a community that truly understands the significance of the day.”
Tanisha Sullivan, president, NAACP Boston Branch

The Juneteenth program was planned and presented by Burton-Goss, and the Babson Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Committee, co-chaired by Terrance Gresham, senior associate director of graduate admissions, and library director Emily Miles. 

Gresham also led the gathering in singing a soaring rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The program included a discussion on the history of Juneteenth by Jerry Epps, director of vendor diversity; Rachelle Jean-Louis P’26, talent acquisition manager; and Shannon Paleologos, director of affinity programs and annual giving; as well as a native land acknowledgement by Santucee Bell MBA’23 and Alexandre Mukendi MBA’22. 

“When I think of Babson, I think of that special community where entrepreneurship is the foundation, freedom is celebrated, and inclusion is embraced anywhere and everywhere,” said John Johnson ’08, who also offered welcome remarks. “Juneteenth is one of the many symbols of freedom that’s led to expanded opportunities for entrepreneurship.” 

‘The Journey Toward Freedom’ 

In her keynote address, Sullivan spoke about the origins of Juneteenth on June 19, 1865, when the enslaved people of Galveston, Texas, finally received news that they were free—more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. 

“For two years, they were legally free, but they continued to live and labor as enslaved people,” Sullivan said, noting that it was just the beginning of a generations-long struggle to secure freedom for all Black people across the United States. 

She pointed to advances such as the 13th Amendment and landmark legislation such the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act that have drawn the country “closer to full freedom for all people,” but the work isn’t complete. Sullivan noted people and communities today struggling with under resourced public schools, access to nutritious food, affordable housing, and good jobs. 

“We know that there are still those among us who are legally free but are living, in many respects, with the vestiges of enslavement,” she said. “There is so much work for us to do. And, so for me, when I think about Juneteenth, when I think about Freedom Day, I am reminded of those who are still on the journey toward freedom.” 

“When I think about Juneteenth … I am reminded of those who are still on the journey toward freedom.”
Tanisha Sullivan, president, NAACP Boston Branch

She said that motivates her work in the community. Now serving in her fourth term as president of the NAACP Boston Branch, Sullivan, who previously was the inaugural chief equity officer for the Boston Public Schools, last year was appointed to chair the Governor’s Advisory Council on Black Empowerment by Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey.   

“It’s my hope that we as a society can live up to the promise of Juneteenth,” Sullivan said, “that we can live up to the promise of the 13th Amendment, that we can live up to the promise of this country of freedom, justice, and equality for all people by working together to advance programs and public policies that seek to create more well communities. 

“That part of our responsibility is not just celebrating but advancing the true spirit of Juneteenth and Freedom Day.”

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