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How Your Organization Can Recognize Juneteenth (And Beyond)

On June 19, 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed to end slavery in the United States, troops freed the last group of people being enslaved in Galveston, Texas. Although Juneteenth has been celebrated among Black Americans for years, it was finally recognized as a federal legal holiday in 2021. Not only is Juneteenth an opportunity for people around the country to reflect on this important point in history, but it's also a chance for employers to recognize the brutal history of this country while celebrating the strength and resilience of Black Americans in the face of adversity. This can be a great way to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace while creating a stronger understanding among colleagues from different backgrounds. The following are some ways that your organization can recognize Juneteenth and take the momentum from the holiday into the rest of the year.

How Your Company Can Honor And Recognize Juneteenth

1. Make Juneteenth a Workplace Holiday

Companies that are able to close on Juneteenth can show their appreciation for the holiday, as well as their workers, by making this a paid day off. If this isn’t possible and workers need to be on the job during this holiday, pay them overtime wages for coming in.

2. Encourage Personal Stories

For some people in the workplace, stories of injustice are just something they hear about on the news—and not something they’ve experienced in their lives or even spoken to anyone about. For other workers, injustice is a very personal reality that they’ve dealt with their entire lives. Juneteenth is an excellent opportunity for people to share their stories of inequity and injustice so everyone in the workplace can understand what they’ve been through and how it affects them on a daily basis. Not only can you invite guest speakers into the workplace to discuss slavery and its ongoing impact on the Black community, but it's also a good time for Black employees to discuss how racism has affected them and their families.

3. Support Black Businesses and Organizations

Chances are, there are numerous Black-owned businesses you can support during Juneteenth. If you're having a team lunch, have it catered by a Black-owned restaurant. If you need consulting work done, seek out members of the Black community to provide the services you're looking for. This is a great way to help build up professionals in this historically underrepresented group while encouraging your workers to seek out products and services from Black individuals.

Additionally, there are various organizations you can support to give back. Whether your company donates money to charities that help Black individuals or uses Juneteenth as a volunteer day so everyone can roll up their sleeves to help a nonprofit organization, this is an excellent time to really demonstrate that you support the community. In addition, this can go a long way toward boosting your employer brand because you're showing that not only do you talk the talk of DEI, but you also walk the walk.

4. Explore Intersectionality

Although Juneteenth is all about the Black experience, it's important to remember that this community is not a monolith—there are several identities within the Black experience that should also be explored. Looking at history in an intersectional way can help everyone feel more included. When having discussions about Black individuals on Juneteenth, don't forget to recognize the experiences of Black women, members of the LGBTQIA+ communities, or those living with disabilities. By doing this, you make the work environment more inclusive so everyone gets the opportunity to share their stories.

5. Examine Company Policies

Is your workplace as diverse as it could be? Do you provide equitable access to advancement opportunities at your organization? Do your Black employees feel included in the workplace? If not, Juneteenth is an excellent time to examine your organization's policies and practices to determine ways DEI goals can be achieved by improving the conditions of the workplace for Black employees. 

If your organization has an employee resource group for Black employees, find out about their experiences in the workplace and what they need to thrive there. Conduct an audit of salaries and promotions to ensure these workers are being given equitable pay and access to opportunities for growth. If Black individuals aren’t well-represented in your workforce, make it a priority to specifically recruit this underserved talent. This will not only help to make Juneteenth meaningful this year, it will also improve the workplace for years to come.

Although it’s only one day out of the year, whatever you do to recognize Juneteenth in the workplace can have long-lasting effects on Black employees, as well as their allies. Use this holiday as an opportunity for members of your workforce to learn and for your organization to become more inclusive and equitable for all employees.

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