Juneteenth, a portmanteau of June and nineteenth, is a pivotal moment in American history, marking the day in 1865 when many of the last of the enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, learned of their freedom. The national holiday serves as a potent reminder of the enduring struggle for racial justice, as well as a celebration of the rich cultural legacy of Black and African Americans.
As businesses strive to create more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplaces, observing Juneteenth offers an opportunity to stand in solidarity with Black employees, acknowledge the continuing struggle against systemic racism, and cultivate an environment of understanding and mutual respect. But how can businesses do this effectively and respectfully? Here are a few key ways.
1. Educate: Make Understanding a Priority
Ignorance is a significant barrier to empathy and progress. Provide resources for employees to learn about Juneteenth's history, significance, and its place within the broader narrative of racial inequality in the United States. Hosting workshops or seminars with guest speakers who are experts in Black and African American history can be powerful. Sharing reading materials or films that explore the Black experience in a thoughtful way can
also be beneficial.
2. Create Space for Dialogue
Encourage conversations about race and racial justice in your workplace. This doesn't mean putting Black employees on the spot, but rather fostering an environment where all voices are welcomed and heard. Encourage non-Black employees to listen, learn, and engage in respectful and eccentric conversations about racial inequality.
3. Recognize Juneteenth as a Paid Holiday
By treating Juneteenth with the same respect as other national holidays, businesses can send a strong signal about their commitment to racial justice and equity. This allows Black employees to observe and celebrate the holiday as they see fit, and it provides a poignant reminder to all employees of the ongoing journey toward racial equality.
4. Amplify Black Voices and Celebrate Black Culture
Highlight the achievements of Black employees within your organization, not just on Juneteenth, but throughout the year. Dedicate social media posts or internal newsletter features to the accomplishments of Black team members. Use Juneteenth as an opportunity to share and celebrate Black culture – music, food, art, literature, and more.
5. Support Black-owned Businesses and Charitable Organizations
One of the most practical ways to support the Black community is through economic empowerment. Consider collaborating with Black-owned businesses or donating to organizations that promote racial justice and equality.
6. Develop Long-term Initiatives
Juneteenth should not be viewed as a one-off event for demonstrating allyship; it's a stepping stone or entry point toward a more inclusive culture. Use the momentum generated by this holiday to plan and implement long-term strategies aimed at promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within your organization.
7. Encourage Personal Action
Businesses can also encourage employees to take individual actions as allies, such as learning about anti-racism, speaking out against racial inequities, and supporting Black-owned businesses in their personal lives.
By recognizing Juneteenth, businesses have the power to take a stand against systemic racism, demonstrate support for Black employees, and educate others about a significant moment in American history. However, allyship doesn't stop with Juneteenth. It's a long-term commitment to making our workplaces more equitable, inclusive, and understanding. This journey of allyship is a powerful stride towards a more just and equal society, where we can all learn from our shared history and strive to create a better future together.