The UF Health Cancer Center Celebrates Juneteenth

It was as an undergraduate student at Hampton University where I first learned about the Emancipation Proclamation being read under the much-celebrated Emancipation Oak at the entrance of its campus. Returning as a faculty member from 2013-2021, I would often sit under the majestic oak and reflect on the historically Black university’s mission and its legacy to educate the next generation of multicultural leaders.

Luisel Ricks-Santi

Steeped in rich history, it is also where I learned that the first documented Africans arrived at Old Point Comfort, in Hampton, Virginia in 1619. More than 240 years later, President Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, but it wasn’t until a full 2 1/2 years later in 1865 that federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. Thereafter, freedmen in Texas organized the first of what became the annual celebration of “Jubilee Day” on June 19 — now called Juneteenth. Juneteenth honors the end to slavery in the United States and on June 17, 2021, it officially became a federal holiday.
Today, the University of Florida Health Cancer Center celebrates Juneteenth and reflects on the needs of our community and cancer patients. It is notable that our area continues to have some of the highest rates of breast, cervical, lung and prostate cancer. Further, Black patients experience higher mortality due to cancer yet remain underrepresented in research and clinical trials.
Addressing these high cancer rates and disparities remains a priority for our Cancer Center. We are dedicated to advancing progress against cancer in our community and beyond and recognize the importance of celebrating our history.
There are many ways to celebrate Juneteenth:
  • Visit the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture portal to learn how Juneteenth celebrations have endured and evolved through the years.
  • Support Black-owned businesses and organizations.
  • Support diversity ideals, which sends a signal that all of us are truly dedicated to a diverse workplace.
  • Discuss diversity initiatives and ensure that race and gender are never barriers to a person’s progress within our workplace.
  • Host a community-wide prayer moment or Juneteenth Healing Circle.
  • Organize a neighborhood block party and invite elected officials and guest speakers to attend.
  • Plan a special meal and gather the family together to acknowledge Juneteenth. Emphasize the mandates of responsibility and striving to be the best you can be.
  • Take some personal time to reflect … then look forward. Make a wish. Make a plan. Write it down.
Kind regards,
Luisel J. Ricks-Santi, Ph.D.
Associate Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
UF Health Cancer Center
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