Faculty Voices: Juneteenth and the Continuing Pursuit of Freedom | MSUToday

Rodney Whitaker is University Professor Emeritus of Jazz Bass, Director of Jazz Studies, and Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging at Michigan State University College of Music. He’s an executive producer of the College of Music’s new Music for Social Justice TV series, and he’s featured in an episode called “Freedom” which airs June 19 at 4 p.m. Sunday, June 19 on WKAR-TV and will be available on – request on wkar.org.

Juneteenth is an African-American celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. For a long time, only the African-American community was aware of this celebration. During President Barack Obama’s administration, however, he began officially celebrating June 19 at the White House, which helped raise awareness of the occasion. It made the average American more aware of its significance and the need to celebrate this holiday.

As an African American, this holiday is very important because the fight for freedom is the most important fight for my culture and my people. Without basic rights and freedoms, you lack the ability to pursue happiness. It is impossible, as Americans, to live up to the true meaning of our creed without this ability.

I first became aware of Juneteenth and its meaning when I was in my high school African-American literature class. Since then, many books, articles and publications have been dedicated to the commemoration of this occasion. Personally, this holiday means a lot to me, because every victory – whether celebrating a holiday like this or legislative actions – brings us closer to a more perfect union.

With everything going on politically in America, this holiday is becoming more and more important to celebrate. The basic ideology we are fighting against is anti-freedom.

There is a close connection between the Juneteenth-inspired fight and the Music for Social Justice series because, ultimately, all episodes are about freedom and equality, which is a fundamental and intrinsic right. I hope that audiences watching this series will be either inspired, rejuvenated and/or encouraged to fight for freedom – that viewers better understand the fact that until we are all free, none of us are free .

Whitaker will perform live with the Spartan Jazz Quartet at the MSU Juneteenth Celebration on Friday, June 17 at the Breslin Center.