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Celebrating Diversity: Pride Month, Juneteenth, Humanities & Arts Courses

Posted on June 15, 2023 at 3:15 PM by Monica Clark

Two significant events happen during this month every year, each with their own place of importance. Pride Month, a time to honor and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, coincides with the commemoration of Juneteenth, a momentous day marking the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. These celebrations provide an excellent opportunity to explore the interconnectedness of social justice movements and the role of humanities and arts education in fostering inclusivity, empathy, and understanding. We put a lot of emphasis on career and technical education offerings at our colleges, and rightfully so—we are the largest education system training our skilled workforce. But I challenge us also to celebrate our arts and humanities opportunities a bit more. We often hear that people are either more left-brained or right-brained, either logical or creative. In reality, we need both left and right brain qualities to succeed. If we apply this comparison to college trainings and courses, we need both types of skillsets and opportunities to create more equitable and inclusive communities to foster change. In this blog, we’ll look at the intersection of these two events celebrating marginalized groups and how our colleges provide opportunities in developing students who are aware and capable of fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Let’s dig into it.

Pride Month: Celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride and Empowerment

Pride Month is a time to highlight and honor LGBTQIA+ folks, including their successes, struggles, and contributions to the world, and Iowa's community colleges play a crucial role in promoting inclusivity and fostering a safe and supportive environment for students of all identities, including those in the queer community. While it has morphed into a month-long celebration across the nation, full of parades and events like last weekend’s Capital City PrideFest in Des Moines, it began as a one-day honoring of the Stonewall Uprising that happened in Manhattan on June 28, 1969. This uprising between New York police officers and LGBTQIA+ protesters was a tipping point, changing LGBTQIA+ activism from then on in the United States. Even if courses offered at our institutions do not explicitly study LGBTQIA+ histories and stories, critical thinking skills and creativity used during these courses often produce deep conversations that challenge stereotypes and biases, expanding empathy and compassion toward others.

Juneteenth: Commemorating Freedom and Black History

On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation ensured enslaved people in the Confederate States were legally free, and Union soldiers traveled across southern states, spreading the news. With the time it took to take control of Confederate states, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865 that 250,000 enslaved Black people were freed by decree in Galveston Bay, Texas. The significance of Juneteenth in acknowledging the struggles and achievements of Black Americans cannot be overstated. Humanities courses at Iowa community colleges provide an opportunity to explore African American and Black history, literature, and art, amplifying the voices and narratives that have often been marginalized.

Intersectionality and the Power of Connection

Pride Month and Juneteenth share a common thread: the struggle for equality, justice, and acceptance. Humanities and arts education serves as a catalyst for critical thinking, cultural understanding, and empathy-building, and Iowa community colleges recognize the importance of providing students with a comprehensive education that extends beyond only technical skills. Through courses in literature, history, philosophy, visual arts, and performance arts, students are encouraged to engage with diverse voices and perspectives. These courses create a space for dialogue, introspection, and personal growth, equipping students with the tools to become empathetic, informed people who actively participate in shaping a more inclusive society.

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