Mercy College held a Juneteenth Community Celebration hosted by President Tim Hall on Tuesday, June 7 to celebrate Juneteenth, its historical significance and to promote the Juneteenth events of community-based organizations that are helping to raise awareness.
The celebration took place at Mercy’s Manhattan Campus, located in New York City’s famed Herald Square, and gathered nonprofit leaders, business executives and elected officials in recognition of Juneteenth. Interim Vice President of MercyManhattan Scorpio Rogers played the role of master of ceremonies during the event, while Mercy alumna Celestina “Celeste” Fleurival ’20, MS ’22 performed “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
The program, made up of several distinguished community leaders, included Karim Marshall, general counsel and chief operating officer of the Juneteenth Foundation; Mercy alumna Nakia James-Jenkins ’01, partner at On-Ramps; and New York State Assemblymember Chantel Jackson (AD-79).
In his opening remarks, Hall – who grew up about 20 minutes from Galveston, Texas and was a third grader living in Texas and enrolled in the educational system where Blacks were still separated from whites in the classroom – emphasized how Mercy is on the path, and has made great strides, in ensuring students of color succeed in gaining college degrees. “The action in terms of bachelor’s degree attainment for students of color is happening at places like Mercy College because we’re committed to the work. We don’t believe equality is won without that work. And we’re seeing a lot of success,” Hall said.
Marshall provided an overview of The Juneteenth Foundation, the organization that successfully championed the designation of Juneteenth as a federal holiday. He described the impetus for starting the Foundation: “We wanted to provide a platform to address some deep-seeded issues that the Black community has experienced, but to also create an opportunity to focus on Black excellence and culture, and to allow for education and reconciliation.”
James-Jenkins, partner at an On-Ramps, an executive leadership search firm and previous vice president, people & culture for Girls Who Code, explained to the audience what she gained from Mercy’s organizational leadership graduate degree program. “Mercy’s program had a deep commitment to think about yourself in three lenses,” she described. “Think about yourself as an individual leader, how you impact the organizations that you lead and your impact on the world.” James-Jenkins appreciates her alma mater’s commitment to equity, and how Mercy has built real programs around the elevation of students of color.
Jackson, who represents constituents in parts of Concourse Village, Morrisania, Melrose, Belmont, Claremont and East Tremont, spoke to the obstacles she has overcome, her professional background as an educator, social worker and advocate, and what inspired her to run for elected office. She was moved by the opportunity to inspire young people and impact social and economic policy on a larger scale. “I realized that being an educator in a school, I wasn’t going to be able to affect change the way I wanted to affect change, so I needed to take another step,” Jackson said. “If there’s anything that I can leave you all with today, it is to mentor a young person – start conversations and encourage young people. You never know what that one conversation will lead to.”
To learn more about Mercy College or to participate in future community events, please contact Mercy College Associate Directors of Public Relations and Community Outreach Marques Payne (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Sonia Martinez (email@example.com).