Taking part in local Juneteenth celebrations and commemorations can be as important to understanding the spirit of the holiday as learning about the history behind it.
It’s a message Razan and Reem Osman, sisters who attend WSU Tri-Cities, want to share widely with members of the university community. Through their involvement in annual Juneteenth events held in the Tri-Cities, the pair originally from Sudan not only learned about the history and traditions associated with Juneteenth, but found a place within the tightknit local community.
“Juneteenth is a great opportunity for the WSU community to participate in events alongside members of the communities around our campuses,” Reem Osman said. “You can read about Juneteenth, but you don’t understand it until you feel it and are a part of it.”
In the days leading up to Juneteenth each year, the Tri-Cities community hosts several events ranging from roller skating events and fun days at Kurtzman Park to a Miss Juneteenth pageant. Festivities conclude on June 24th with a gospel celebration that recognizes the suffering that took place prior to the end of slavery in the United States.
Razan Osman is currently the Tri-Cities reigning Miss Juneteenth Queen. In order to earn that honor, she participated in classes on African American culture as well as institutions like Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or HBCUs, alongside her fellow contestants in the months leading up to the pageant. Contestants are judged most significantly on their responses to questions posed by judges as well as their talents, La’Quita Thornton, a member of the Miss Juneteenth Scholarship Pageant committee, noted.
Participating in the pageant gave Razan Osman the opportunity to engage with black business owners and community members as well as cultivate the confidence to be more outgoing.
“When I talk to people in places where I’m usually the only black person in the room, I feel more confident thanks to my past experiences and can take the opportunity to tell people about myself,” Razan said.
Both Osmans have also been involved in the WSU Tri-Cities Black Student Union, a club that Reem helped to establish and now leads as president. After graduating this coming spring, Reem hopes to be an advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in her chosen field of computer science.
Kauser Gwaduri, student services coordinator for the MOSAIC Center for Student Inclusion at WSU Tri-Cities, will be tabling at community Juneteenth events on behalf of the center. There, she and other WSU employees will be helping members of the community connect with WSU resources and explore opportunities for resume building and career development as well as sharing information about different WSU Tri-Cities student groups.
While it was a significant step for Washington State and WSU to make Juneteenth an official holiday, the university needs to use it as a means of extending its land grant mission and be a genuine part of communities across the state.
“Our mission requires us to be practical, to be hands on, and so I would love and highly encourage our WSU community to find Juneteenth celebrations in their communities,” Gwaduri said. “Get perspectives on how valuable that experience of freedom is for communities, share in the joy of education, and support the university staying connected to our community by letting them know we are here for them and going to have open ears and continue to find ways to support them for our joint benefit as one Washington State.”
The Tri-Cities Juneteenth Community Council is organizing events throughout the month of June, with more information available on its Facebook page. WSU Global is planning a Juneteenth movie night on June 19 from 5-7 p.m. The campus will be screening “Daughters of the Dust” via Zoom and the event is open to all members of the WSU community. More information is available on the campus’ website.
The Pullman and Moscow communities will be gathering for a Juneteenth celebration at Moscow Friendship Square from noon–4 p.m. June 19.