The daughters of MLK and Malcolm X to speak at Centennial Hall on Juneteenth
The event is the culmination of the university's yearlong "Beyond Juneteenth" celebration.
The University of Arizona will mark Juneteenth by welcoming two advocates, educators and activists who are continuing the legacy of their iconic families. Strategist and peace advocate Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., and Ilyasah Shabazz, award-winning author, educator and daughter of Malcolm X, will speak June 19 at 7 p.m. at Centennial Hall.
The event, "Beyond Legacy: The Next Generation of Justice and Action in the 21st Century," is the culmination of the university's Beyond Juneteenth initiative – a yearlong celebration of Black people in the Southwest.
"We're not going to just focus on the fathers of these two amazing women," said Denise TrimbleSmith, project director for justice initiatives in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, a member of the Beyond Juneteenth committee and the moderator for the discussion between King and Shabazz. "We'll also be focusing on their trailblazing mothers, as well as the opportunity that they have taken to continue the fight for justice in America."
Bernice King is the CEO of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, which was founded by her mother, Coretta Scott King, in 1968. As part of her work with the center, Bernice King launched Students with King, an educational program that allows elementary, middle and high school students to interact with members of the King family and other participants in the Civil Rights Movement.
Shabazz is a community organizer and social activist who has authored several books, including her memoir "Growing Up X." She spent more than eight years as an adjunct professor at the City University of New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice and is a trustee for the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center and the Harlem Symphony Orchestra.
The Juneteenth holiday, which falls on June 19, commemorates the arrival of Union soldiers in Galveston, Texas, in 1865 – more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed – to announce that enslaved people in Texas were free. Beginning this year, the university will observe Juneteenth as a paid holiday.
TrimbleSmith has spent two years planning the "Beyond Legacy" event and expects a full house to hear King and Shabazz speak.
"They are very highly sought after as keynote speakers around the world," TrimbleSmith said. "They made a conscious and intentional decision to spend our first Juneteenth holiday with us in Tucson. And although they speak together often, this will be their first time speaking together in Arizona."
University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins announced the Beyond Juneteenth initiative in a June 2022 message to the campus community. The yearlong effort began with "Getting to Know Black Arizona," a panel discussion that spotlighted the work of Black faculty throughout campus. Other events included a discussion about Afrofuturism and screenings of documentaries on Frederick Douglass, hip-hop's impact and more. Links to recordings of both discussions can be found on the Beyond Juneteenth website.
'Marching in the right direction'
The Beyond Juneteenth committee is co-chaired by Tyina Steptoe, associate professor of history, and Treya Allen, diversity, equity and inclusion instructional support coordinator in the General Education office. Steptoe said the effort has surpassed her expectations.
"People just knowing what Juneteenth is as a holiday – I've seen more awareness of that over the past year," Steptoe said. "The overall goals of educating the community about Juneteenth and getting to know Black Arizona have been so important." (Steptoe discussed the history of Juneteenth in this Q&A from June 2020.)
In addition to the Beyond Juneteenth initiative, the university celebrated the culture and contributions of the Black community with the opening of the African American Museum of Southern Arizona, located in the Student Union Memorial Center, and the launch of a Black Faculty Speaker Series. TrimbleSmith said she hopes the university can build on that momentum for years to come.
"As an employee of the university, I feel hopeful that we are marching in the right direction and that we are not simply being performative," TrimbleSmith said. "I love that fact that we are not just trying to have the illusion of inclusion but providing opportunities for us all to celebrate this holiday and our community all year."
Tickets for "Beyond Legacy: The Next Generation of Justice and Action in the 21st Century" are free, but attendees must register. Employees and other community members may request up to four tickets. There is a seating area reserved for students.
More ways to celebrate
The university is again a sponsor of the Tucson Juneteenth Festival, being held on June 17 from 1-9 p.m. at the Kino Sports Complex, 2500 E. Ajo Way. Other events being supported by Beyond Juneteenth and the African American Museum of Southern Arizona are listed below.
Juneteenth Kickoff Concert | Saturday, June 10, 8 p.m. | Dunbar Pavilion, 325 W. Second St.
The concert, featuring R&B artist Evelyn "Champagne" King, will kick off the 2023 Tucson Juneteenth celebration. Find more information and purchase tickets.
Gospel Jubilee | Sunday, June 11 – lunch at 1 p.m., performance at 3 p.m. | Pima Community College – West Campus, Proscenium Theatre, 2202 W. Anklam Road
There will be a free lunch from 1-2:30 p.m. followed by performances by the Juneteenth Mass Choir and local artists. Tickets are not required but are preferred. Find more information and sign up for tickets.
Free Screening: "Making of Black America – Through the Grapevine" | Thursday, June 15, 4 p.m. | The Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd.
See a preview of this four-part PBS series and listen to commentary from local historians. The event is free and open to the public. Food will be available for purchase from a food truck beginning at 4 p.m. The program begins at 5 p.m. Tickets are not required but are preferred. Find more information and sign up for tickets.
University of Arizona in the News