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June 12, 2024

Student view: Celebrating Juneteenth through oil, ink and memory

Morgan Renee Hill is a Master of Fine Arts candidate in the Department of Art, Art History and Design in the College of Arts and Letters at Michigan State University. Hill is the winner of the 2024 Juneteenth poster design contest. Their work “Black Banner” is prominently featured in this year’s MSU Juneteenth Commemorative Celebration.

Morgan Hill

Juneteenth represents community and joy. In Edouard Glissant’s writing, “Poetics of Relation,” he talks about the concept of the open boat. The open boat was an inter-dimensional place only the Africans who were being deported could experience and keep in their hearts. The boat symbolizes death and rebirth. “Although you are alone in this suffering, you share in the unknown with others whom you have yet to know.” His interpretation of relation and how it connects a group of people through traumatic or life-changing events is synonymous with both solitude and companionship in our community. 

I am inspired by this concept as a gateway to understanding the unspoken language of the Black community and the powerful bond the Black diaspora experiences throughout history. For Blackness is not a monolith. Through it all, we have persevered while still keeping our joy. We will continue to be bold, creative and administer spaces for us to prosper. 

 Black and white ink on oil abstract painting
“Black Banner,” by Morgan Renee Hill, 2024. Ink and coconut oil on yupo paper, 41” x 60.” Read the artist’s statement. Free prints will be distributed at the MSU Juneteenth celebration.

Morgan Hill poses with a quilt on display in the background

It is good to be Black! Juneteenth is wordlessly sharing excess lotion that was on one’s hand to another individual who did not ask but knows to receive it. Juneteenth is keeping the front door closed because “you letting the cold air out.” It is the uncle’s firing up the grill and getting a to-go plate of your grandmother’s dessert that only she knows how to make. It is graduating from the kids’ table to unlocking the family stories over the years. Juneteenth is saying, “I’ll catch you later,” multiple times in different locations from point A, exiting the function, to point B, the car. Juneteenth is fellowship and love. We celebrate Juneteenth to commemorate our unwavering joy against all odds.

MSU will celebrate Juneteenth on June 14. For a complete list of events, visit the Office for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion


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