Observing Juneteenth…for the 1st, 2nd, or 157th time
Celebrations of Juneteenth date back to 1866, but for many in the United States, this year marks only the second year of widespread commemoration.
The enslavement of people was first made illegal in non-slave-holding states when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862.
On June 19, 1865, the last slaves were liberated by Federal troops in Texas – a day celebrated in that state ever since.
Though Juneteenth has been celebrated in Black communities for decades, many people outside of those communities had no or limited understanding of it.
But that changed in 2020. After the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police that May, more Americans than ever demanded meaningful steps toward racial equity for the Black members of the population.
Learn more about racial equity:
- Learning About Racial Equity: 3 Effective Principles
- Racial Equity Training: 5 Key Guidelines to the IBIS Approach
Protests spread, conversations deepened, and leaders and community members from coast to coast worked to understand the historical foundations of discrimination and hate.
Interest grew in honoring the day when Black Americans finally became free, and it is now a federal holiday.
This Juneteenth presents an opportunity to build greater understanding of inequity, to take the time to make things more equitable, and to reflect on the role of slavery in the founding of the U.S. and how it affects the way things are today.
Honoring Juneteenth: What are some of our clients doing?
- Panels in which marginalized employees share their perspectives and experiences
- Facilitated discussion groups that allow for deeper conversation about racial dynamics at work
- Book groups focused on the Black experience
- Resource guides with magazine articles, television shows, and books about race
- Email commemorations and reflections to all staff
- Town Halls in which leaders model vulnerability around the DEI journey, and offer background and context on the holiday
- Unconscious Bias training
Learn more about helping Black employees thrive:
- How to Support the Career Growth of Black Employees
- Sustainable Practices to Lift Up Black Employees
- New Work on Black Male Leadership
- Speaking up: Pushing Past Silence for Your Black Employees
Taking the Day Off…While Supporting Black Communities
Many organizations give Juneteenth as a day off for employees, in which case we encourage leaders to reach out to employees ahead of time to publicize Black-owned businesses, events and opportunities that can be integrated into a long weekend.
Here is a brief sampling of resources that are either Black-owned businesses or guides to find them:
An app for discovering black-owned restaurants nationwide.
- We Read Too
Mobile database of books for children written by people of color
- Black Girls Trekkin
Black women on a mission to diversify the outdoors
A streamlined calendar app to simplify scheduling
Unlimited library of virtual workouts to be done anywhere
Social media with a subscription component
- The Shine App
Daily mental wellness with meditations and self-care courses
- Black Business Green Book
Online black-owned business directory from color of change
- Shop Black Owned
Website mapping black-owned businesses in eight cities
- Official Black Wall Street
Largest platform for black businesses
The Sky Is the Limit
Juneteenth is also an opportunity for large-scale adjustments to provide support for marginalized Black communities, such as California’s release this month of a set of recommendations for the country’s first-ever state reparations to the ancestors of enslaved people living in California. Learning about this important and historic work being done is a step in the right direction.
Whatever your organization does to honor Juneteenth, make the most of this opportunity to build awareness of racial equity, deepen employee understanding of the holiday’s context and of our country’s foundation …and raise a toast to the first Independence Day without slavery.
Contact us to learn more about how IBIS can help support your organization in building a culture of DEI…and embracing Juneteenth.
Senior Consultant Cedar Pruitt specializes in leadership, communication and culture. She helps organizations develop practices and policies that allow everyone to thrive. Her clients include competitive universities, mid-size financial firms, innovative start-ups, and more.