President’s Message: Embrace Juneteenth

Thursday, June 1, 2023 By MBA President Grace V.B. Garcia
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MBA President Grace V.B. Garcia

The Massachusetts Bar Association’s recent Annual Gala and the upcoming Access to Justice Awards are terrific examples of events that celebrate our MBA community, including some of our association’s stars and heroes. I also want to draw your attention to another upcoming celebration that, while more historic in nature, also shares important connections with our community and our values.

On June 15, starting at 5:30 p.m. at our Boston office, the MBA is proud to host a Juneteenth Reception: Celebrating Freedom. Juneteenth, short for June 19, marks the day federal troops informed enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, that they were free. While Juneteenth has been celebrated in African American communities and in various areas of the United States for decades, Juneteenth officially became a federal holiday commemorating the effective end of slavery in the United States in 2021.

We’re fortunate to have Dr. Deborah A. Jackson of the Center for Law, Equity & Race at Northeastern University School of Law, who will provide a historical overview of Juneteenth. Our keynote speaker, Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea J. Campbell, will also offer her reflections on the significance of the holiday. 

Following the ceremony and remarks, we will take a group walk to The Embrace statue in Boston Common, just up the street from the MBA’s Boston office on West Street. The sculpture and the 1965 Freedom Plaza on which it rests were officially opened to the public in February of this year. Designed by artist Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group, The Embrace is based on a photo of an embrace shared between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King after he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. 

According to the City of Boston, The Embrace is meant to spark a public conversation on advancing racial and social justice in Boston today. Similarly, the Juneteenth holiday recognizes an important moment in our country’s history and offers us another opportunity to reflect on specific ways to make progress toward racial equality. 

At the MBA, we are continuing to take steps to increase diversity, equity and inclusion within the bar. The MBA’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee (DEIC) has been leading our efforts in this area, so it’s not surprising that they are also the dream team behind our inaugural Juneteenth Celebration. I am grateful for DEIC Co-chair Shayla Mombeleur and the entire DEIC who have been working hard to put together this excellent and informative program. I also offer my special thanks to the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association and the Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys for co-sponsoring this event with us.

Collaboration has been one of the “Three Cs” (communication, collaboration and community) guiding our efforts this year at the MBA. As I’ve said before, our history demonstrates that working collaboratively with others often leads to different perspectives, a more expansive reach and better outcomes. Partnering with our friends at the MBLA and MBWA is a great example of how working together with like-minded organizations who share our values only enhances what we’re able to provide. 

I invite you all to join us for this unique celebration on June 15 (sign up by June 8!) as we reflect on the historic importance of Juneteenth, the meaning behind The Embrace, and the lessons we can learn from both, as we continue to work toward a more equitable and inclusive community.