Dominican Observes Juneteenth with Celebration of Freedom: Remembering Our Shared History

At St. Mary’s Dominican High School’s Juneteenth celebration, the Rev. Ajani Gibson celebrated the Black Catholic Mass in the school Our Lady Queen of the Rosary Chapel.

On June 19, the first officially declared federal holiday of Juneteenth, St. Mary’s Dominican High Schools’ Alumnae Association presented, Celebration of Freedom: Remembering Our Shared History. The gathering of reflection and rejoicing was a virtual gathering for Dominican alumnae around the country. Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 that the Union Army informed slaves in Galveston, Texas, of the Emancipation Proclamation. More than two years earlier, President Abraham Lincoln had signed the executive order to free all enslaved people in places that were still “in rebellion against the United States.” The effective date was January 17, 1863. 

Dominican alumna Arthel Neville (’80) gave a virtual welcome. Before the beginning of the morning Black Catholic Mass in Our Lady Queen of the Rosary Chapel, Robin Barnes (’05) sang, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Mass celebrant was the Rev. Ajani Gibson, who was ordained on June 5th at St Louis Cathedral. He now serves as pastor of St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in Treme, his childhood parish that fostered his vocation. 

The Young Voices of Praise Choir and Musicians, under the direction of Devin Boucree, sang his new arrangements of old Negro spirituals, including, “I Am His Child,” “Oh Freedom,” “Kumbaya,” and  “This Little Light of Mine.” Readers were Elana Perriott (’21), Shaysa Lewis (’13), and Nayah Thomas (’20). Giving his blessing at the end of Mass, Fr. Gibson encouraged all to keep their faith and to trust in God.

Director Devin Boucree, at piano, with The Young Voices of Praise Choir and Musicians at the Black Catholic Mass, part of St. Mary’s Dominican High School’s Juneteenth celebration.

A presentation, Racism Is A Sin, by keynote speaker Sr. Patricia Dual, O.P., encouraged meaningful conversation and dialog on the challenging topic, and addressed how people of faith must take part in the process of dismantling racism and working toward racial healing and equity. Sr. Dual is a member of the Peace Ministry of Welcome-Vocation Team and Coordinator of Formation for the Dominican Sisters of Peace.

A virtual Jazz lunch break featured internationally acclaimed New Orleans jazz vocalist Sharon Martin. The afternoon sessions featured guest speakers Ansel Augustine, D.Min. – The Importance of Blacks in the Catholic Church Today; Mona Lisa Saloy, Ph.D, New Orleans Black Culture Before and After Juneteenth; Sybil Morial, M.Ed., Witness to Change: From Jim Crow to Political Empowerment; Winnie Sullivan, M.S. – Sister Mary Antona Ebo: This Far By Faith.  Dr. Augustine is Executive Director of the Office of Cultural Diversity and Outreach for the Archdiocese of Washington, DC. Dr. Saloy is the Conrad N. Hilton Endowed Professor of English at Dillard University, New Orleans. Educator, activist, and community leader, Mrs. Morial documented her remarkable life in her memoir, Witness to Change: From Jim Crow to Political Empowerment. Ms. Sullivan is a writer, editor, and the director of PenUltimate Press, a nonprofit publishing company in St. Louis. 

Dominican’s Juneteenth Celebration featured an art contest that drew 28 entries from the school’s students. Judges were New Orleans based artists Terrance Osborne, Samantha Ramey (’13), and Wade Griffin. The top three winning entries were, First Place – Freedom Is A State of Mind by Jade C. Mason, freshman; Second Place – Healing Wounds by Shania Raimer, sophomore; and Third Place – Flying Free by Ella Stolberg, senior. 

Keynote speaker Sr. Patricia Dual. O.P, addresses attendees of St. Mary’s Dominican High School’s Juneteenth celebration presented by the school’s Alumnae Association.

The Juneteenth Celebration Committee included Co-Chairs Vallerie Maurice (’78) and Denise Marrero St. Cyr (’82); members Celeste Shelsey Anding (’82), Mary Baudouin (’74), Amanda Bonam (’13), Lisa Bernstein Cates (’84), Katherine Johnson (’03), Shaysa Lewis (’13), Adrienne Breaux Quinlan (’69), Nelita Manego-Ramey (’79), Beryl Radcliff Small (’79), Samantha Ramey (’13), Bianca San Martin (’08), Gloria Thomas (’20), and Nayah Thomas (’20).