Around 40 students joined the Black Student Union and International Relations Advocacy Club in the Sunken Garden to commemorate Juneteenth in a mural build and teach-in from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 18.

The event had been in the works for a couple months with reservations of the location since late May.

“It is important to create as many opportunities as possible to create times for connection and communication,” said Mahder Aklilu, 20, a geology major and one of the event’s organizers.

The speaker, only introduced as Sami, educated participants on key moments in the history of Black empowerment as well as the origin of Juneteenth.

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“A lot of really amazing things that were happening in that post-emancipation period ended up being rolled back in the decade that followed,” Sami said. “Reparations is something that we talk about now, but there were reparations given after emancipation; those reparations were given to the slaveholders, while freed people were left to fend for themselves — build a livelihood, wealth and existence in an increasingly capitalist country — basically from nothing. So, recognizing those missed opportunities and demanding that now and in the future is a critical part of remembering Juneteenth.”

Before and after the discussion, students had the chance to write about liberation and what it means to them.

One of the main points Sami touched on was the intersection between the struggle for Black liberation.

“There were people there (at the summit) from all walks of life because they recognized the commonality of our struggle,” Sami said. “It’s a struggle against colonialism, imperialism and the same capitalists that are sending billions of our tax dollars overseas for bombs and missiles while our communities here are suffering.”

Chalk art lines the borders of the Sunken Garden’s fountain sculpture. Taken on June 18. (Allan Galeana)

The event was a peaceful organization and not a protest with a focus on connection and expression. Throughout the event, 30 to 40 students participated in the teach-in and art build.

“The goal is to teach, educate and empower our peers,” said Lia Washington, 19, a political science major and event organizer. “I think we accomplished that today; education is power.”

A large section of the event had students write messages and make art in chalk around the Sunken Garden, mainly surrounding the large fountain sculpture, “La Vita è Una Fontana.”

The organizers gave attendees the prompt, “What does liberation look like and how does it come about?”

Bright red hand prints and splatters line the stairs to the Flint Center, with the words “Hands off Rafah” on the middle step, on June 18. (Allan Galeana)

Additionally, several organizers coordinated a mural of a crying mountain lion with an olive branch in its mouth and a Palestinian flag behind it, encircled in a ring of water. Underneath the ring reads “The people united will never be defeated” in black washable paint.

Another group wrote out “Hands off Rafah” in red paint on the steps to the Flint Center, surrounded in handprints and splatters.

“It’s educational and it’s the truth,” said Jonny Ma, 23, a film major, about the event. “Often, our media tries to shut the truth out.”