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 at Michigan State University and the winner of the 2024 Juneteenth poster design contest. Their work, “Black Banner,” is prominently featured in this year’s MSU Juneteenth Commemorative Celebration, which will take place on Friday, June 14.

Born and raised in Baltimore County, Maryland, Hill is an abstract artist with a multidisciplinary background who experiments with oil paint, charcoal, and ink.
With plans to graduate from MSU with an MFA in May 2025, Hill’s current body of work cultivates a social practice that reflects everyday experiences with the surrounding communities. In the following student view, Hill writes about Juneteenth and its significance.

Portrait of Morgan Renee Hill.
Morgan Renee 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. 

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.

Photo of Morgan Renee Hill's art piece called "Black Banner" featuring black, white, and grey paint splatters.
Artwork: “Black Banner” by Morgan Renee Hill, 2024

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

This student view originally was published by MSU Today.