College of Medicine Commemorates Juneteenth

Juneteenth is observed on June 19, 2021, to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S. On this day, enslaved African-Americans in Galveston, Texas, were notified they had actually been freed almost 2.5 years earlier.

Members of the College of Medicine were asked a series of questions on how they honor Juneteenth.

Kaylin Batey

Class of 2023


Kaylin BateyQ: When did you first become aware of Juneteenth?

A: I first became aware of Juneteenth when I was eight years old. Despite it being one of the most momentous events in American history, I did not know of its existence early in my childhood, as the holiday received little to no national recognition and as teachings of African American history were avoided in my education. It was through participation in the local arts organization Juneteenth Legacy Theatre that I learned of its existence. Gradually over the years, my family and I have strengthened our ceremonial and celebratory observance of “Freedom Day.”

Q: What does Juneteenth mean to you? How do you celebrate?

A: Many celebrate the Fourth of July with patriotic display and appreciation for our nation’s independence; however, as a Black American I often have mixed emotions on Independence Day considering that my ancestors remained shackled in 1776. To me, Juneteenth represents a stronger actualization of the American promise — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I celebrate Juneteenth by remembering or discovering more African American history and by intentionally resting and reenergizing. Each year, my family gathers with comforting soul food and fired-up smokers as we celebrate Black joy and the resilience so evident in our heritage.

Q: Juneteenth is also known as Freedom Day. What does freedom look like to you?

A: Although Juneteenth is also known as Freedom Day, we all know that absolute freedom was delayed by unjust systems and institutions born out of Jim Crowe laws to forestall citizen equality. Despite emancipation, even today, there is evidenced housing inequality, brokenness in our criminal justice system, and disparate health outcomes— all of which represent residual impacts of generations of slavery and racial discrimination. Coretta Scott King said it best: “Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won; you earn it and win it in every generation.” To me, freedom and liberation in America involves a system that values and protects Black lives and dismantles systemic oppression.

Q: What do you hope to come about as a result of Juneteenth becoming more widely celebrated?

A: Juneteenth is a day of remembrance, but I hope it also leads people to action. As Juneteenth becomes more widely celebrated, my hope is that it leads to policy and conversations that address the sociopolitical inequalities that continue today. Additionally, I hope to see Black businesses being supported, non-Black Americans educating their families with the abundant documentaries and books available, and action to create racial justice and equity.

Q: What does Juneteenth mean to the College of Medicine?

A: For the College of Medicine, Juneteenth is an opportunity to reflect and commit to the ongoing work that addresses the legacies of slavery and racial discrimination in healthcare and education.  The College of Medicine has an opportunity to promote health equity by recognizing the historical context that is connected to our (future) patients.

Emmanuel Dike-Udensi

Class of 2022
President, UK Chapter of the Student National Medical Association

Emmanuel Dike-OdensiQ: When did you first become aware of Juneteenth?

A: Juneteenth came into my awareness for the first time in the summer of 2020.

Q: What does Juneteenth mean to you? How do you celebrate?

A: For me, Juneteenth represents an opportunity to commemorate, face, and learn more about the racial history of America. In learning, I can reflect on the much that has been achieved through courage and suffering, and how much still must be done. I approach the day with humble reflection.

Q: Juneteenth is also known as Freedom Day. What does freedom look like to you?

A: I believe the core of freedom is love. Love through patience and tolerance. Love of the diversity of life that contributes to its beautiful whole. Love of one's neighbor as thyself.

Q: What do you hope to come about as a result of Juneteenth becoming more widely celebrated?

A: I hope people take the opportunity to engage the deep racial history of this country, bright and dark. In so doing, we can better avoid repeating the dark aspects, recognize where those elements still persist, and take necessary, deliberate action to root out these weeds.

Q: What does Juneteenth mean to the College of Medicine?

A: All sectors of human life must endeavor to defeat the many shades of racism, and our College of Medicine and the medical field are integral parts. The purest ideals and virtues of the proclamation and order that underlie Juneteenth stand yet before us, which include overcoming discrimination, systemic racism, and layered inequities. Medicine must play an active role and better yet, take the lead.

Brian Hamilton, MEd

Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Brian HamiltonQ: When did you first become aware of Juneteenth?

A: I struggle to remember exactly when I first heard about Juneteenth, but I want to say it was during my time in undergrad or shortly thereafter. Where I went to school had a lot of folks from Texas who celebrated back home, but the holiday hadn’t really blown up yet in Missouri where I’m from originally.

Q: What does Juneteenth mean to you? How do you celebrate?

A: Juneteenth to me is an opportunity to recognize everything great about being Black. Yes, the origins of the holiday are grounded in this massive lie and abuse enslaved Black folks in Galveston experienced, but what grew from it was a celebration. A day dedicated to Black folks’ collective freedom and in some cases even encouraging one another to get involved politically to take some measure of power and control over their communities. If I can, I like to celebrate Juneteenth in fellowship with family and friends. If I can’t do that, Juneteenth is also an opportunity to rest. Black folks built this country from the ground up so if all I do on June 19 is kick my feet up, that’s OK, too, and in my opinion beyond well earned.

Q: Juneteenth is also known as Freedom Day. What does freedom look like to you?

A: Freedom looks like choice, but also having the knowledge, resources, experiences, etc. to make the best choices that will benefit you and your community. While much has changed since 1865, I still think Black folks in this country don’t have the same freedom other Americans do.

Q: What do you hope to come about as a result of Juneteenth becoming more widely celebrated?

A: While it’s great that more and more Black and non-Black folks are learning about Juneteenth and celebrating, I would love for more Black folks to use the day as an opportunity to intentionally create community and build relationships with one another.

Shavonna Ross, MA

Assistant Executive Director

Shavonna RossQ: When did you first become aware of Juneteenth?

A: In 2010, I became aware of the Eighth of August before I learned about Juneteenth. My husband, who identifies as Black, is from Paducah, Ky. There they celebrate the Eighth of August since that is when the news of the Emancipation Proclamation arrived in Paducah.

Q: What does Juneteenth mean to you? How do you celebrate?

A: Juneteenth symbolizes the ending of the centuries-long inhumane and disgusting treatment of Black people as personal property for personal financial gain and personal pleasure. As a national holiday, it signifies freedom for all and the (theoretical) embracing of it by our government and nation. My family and I celebrate Juneteenth by participating in Eighth of August events in Paducah. There are concerts, activities for all ages, vendors of all kinds (food, jewelry, clothing), dancing, contests, etc.

Q: Juneteenth is also known as Freedom Day. What does freedom look like to you?

A: As a white person, freedom to me includes, but is not limited to: 1) not being followed by a clerk while shopping in a store; 2) not fearing for my life if pulled over by law enforcement; 3) wearing my hair in its natural state without being perceived as unprofessional; 4) engaging in matters that do (or don’t) concern me and not being ignored by peers and professional colleagues. In short, and though a very general statement, freedom to me is coming and going as one pleases and being trusted and respected while doing so.

Q: What do you hope to come about as a result of Juneteenth becoming more widely celebrated?

A: Raised awareness and true acceptance of and respect for people of color and their culture.

Q: What does Juneteenth mean to the College of Medicine?

A: While I am not the sole voice for the College of Medicine, I’d like to think the majority would agree that Juneteenth is meant to serve as a celebratory day to honor the memory of the generations who came before and paved the way for the college’s faculty, staff, and learners of color. Without the abolishment of slavery, the college would be void of the experiences, insights, and talents of its diverse constituents and severely lacking in the services it could provide to the Commonwealth and beyond.