Taking Stock of Our Past While Working for a Better Tomorrow

**Due to an unexpected emergency that occurred after this message was sent to campus, Chancellor Grasso was unable to attend the protest march.**

Dear Colleagues,

On June 19, 1865, enslaved African Americans residing in Texas received official word that they were free. The significance of this date may be surprising since it came more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and nearly five months after Congress sent the 13th Amendment to the states for ratification.  Soon afterward, this historic day became named Juneteenth and has been celebrated annually as the putative end to slavery in America. 

One of the most humbling and memorable moments of my life was holding a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Abraham Lincoln himself.  Gazing at this remarkable document, I felt filled with pride that our nation found the strength to strike a mortal blow against the evils of slavery.  And yet, I was simultaneously struck with fresh horror that it took a cruel and bloody civil war to end the system of brutality and dehumanization that characterized chattel slavery in the United States.

A century and a half of collective actions have followed the first Juneteenth. Despite much progress, the passage of time alone has not healed our deepest societal wounds or sufficiently addressed the lingering economic and psychological harms that stem from American slavery. Like ripples caused by a stone thrown into a lake, the effects of slavery continually fan outward onto subsequent generations.  The fight against vestigial structural racism must continue institutionally, collectively and individually. That racism, in any form, can persist anywhere to this day should be repugnant to us all.  It will take every American working toward a common purpose to end any and all tolerance for racism.  UM-Dearborn holds a prime duty to be a part of the solution. 

America’s national ideals require us to stand up for all of our fellow citizens.  Acknowledging that Black Lives Matter does not obviate the notion that we all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Rather, it reaffirms our commitment to the most vulnerable among us, irrespective of our ethnic or racial backgrounds, educational levels or occupations. We can live up to our country's fundamental principles by taking on racism in all its manifestations. The alternative is unthinkable. As Dr. King presciently remarked: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

Today, I will join with other UM-Dearborn leaders and members of the Dearborn community for a peaceful protest march, organized by our university’s Black Student Union and the African American Student Association at Henry Ford College, to show solidarity, denounce racism, racial profiling and police brutality against all people of color. 

I have also asked my chief of staff, Keisha Blevins, Dean Ann Lampkin-Williams, and my strategic planning co-chair and professor, Deborah Smith Pollard to assemble a working group to boldly strengthen our awareness and amplify our commitment to respect, inclusion and diversity for all who live, work and study in our community.  Details about the mission and charge of this group will be shared soon. 

All thoughtful and caring individuals can see that more can and should be done to create and promote a just and equitable society.  Education serves as an important foundation for opportunity and success.  We will do more to actively share what our university has to offer so that all of our neighbors in this region and our state can access the American dream.  Our university belongs to everyone in Michigan, and we will continue our work for the public good while remaining fully committed to an inclusive, representative and accessible community.  This is our imperative.

Although the fight for equality, inclusion and freedom can be frustratingly slow at times, Juneteenth offers all of us a day to remember the positive results of collective action.  Let us acknowledge this day as one of reflection and planning for how humanity can work together to erase racial inequities and become whole. 

Domenico Grasso

Office of the Chancellor

1070 - Administration Building
4901 Evergreen Road
Dearborn, MI 48128
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Phone: 313-593-5500
Fax: 313-593-5204