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DEI in action: 'Angelic troublemakers' and the intersections of Civil Rights

May 26, 2022 - Brian Johnson, Ph.D.

During the month of June, we celebrate Pride Month and Juneteenth. Pride Month recognizes the progress of LGBTQ+ rights and provides a time to reflect upon the continued progress which must occur. Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States.

While long celebrated, President Biden declared Juneteenth an official federal holiday last year. We acknowledge the intersection of Pride Month and Juneteenth by paying tribute to the efforts of minoritized individuals who simultaneously championed for racial equity and LGBTQ+ rights. Without their efforts, many of the LGBTQ+ advancements we now celebrate would not have been possible. Further, while Juneteenth marked the official end of slavery, the effects of slavery continue to manifest and affect minoritized individuals via disparities in the justice system, K-12 education, and rates of death at the hands of gun violence.

The intersection of racial justice and LGBTQ+ rights are still at risk, as LGBTQ+ individuals of color continue to face disproportionate societal discrimination and inequities.  Consider the following data from a Center for American Progress 2020 survey, which points to disparities in housing, health care and economic advancement that LGBTQ+ individuals of color experience. In summary, the very rights that many of the aforementioned social justice trailblazers advocated for are still in jeopardy.

We honor Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Miss Major. All were individuals of color and were pivotal with the Stonewall Riots which ultimately led to Pride Month. We also honor Bayard Rustin, an LGBTQ+ civil rights advocate who helped organize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington.

Artistic and scholarly expression have long been a form of social activism. James Baldwin, Audre Lorde and Alvin Ailey advocated for LGBTQ+ rights and racial equality through their socially conscious writings and commitment to the arts. Yet the need for civil rights advocacy is far from over. Juneteenth and Pride Month serve as reminders of our call to social action. To quote Bayard Rustin, “We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers.”

During June and beyond, please consider observing Juneteenth and Pride Month by participating in various events that are occurring on campus, within Michigan, and/or virtually. Michigan State University will hold its second annual Juneteenth Celebration on June 17, and James Madison College is proud to serve as one of several co-sponsors for this event. In addition, links to other events can be found below. I encourage you to join me in attending these events, then further your activism by developing your own plan of social action to support Juneteenth and Pride Month.

Upcoming Michigan events

Flint Juneteenth Festival and Parade

Grand Rapids Pride Festival

Lansing Juneteenth Celebration 

Motor City Pride

Spring Grand Rapids Juneteenth Festival 2022