Juneteenth, a day that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, is a symbolic holiday for Black people in this country.
It’s known as Emancipation Day for a reason. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and announced the end of slavery, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.
Now that Juneteenth is a national holiday, it’s refreshing to see how organizations throughout the country are starting to recognize its importance.
The big question now is: How do you celebrate Juneteenth meaningfully and promote social justice for Black people?
Juneteenth, which started off as a state holiday in Texas in 1980, is a day to celebrate freedom and progress, and reflect on the challenges African Americans still face. For organizations that want to show their support for the Black community, recognizing Juneteenth is a great way to start.
That’s why, as communities throughout the country prepare to celebrate Juneteenth, we must consider how to make the day meaningful and impactful. It’s not just about recognizing the holiday; it’s about promoting racial equity and social justice.
Here are six meaningful ways organizations can recognize Juneteenth and support Black people.
1. Establish Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Initiatives
Juneteenth provides an important moment for organizations to assess and reckon with their existing commitments to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.
What is your organization doing to uplift and support employees from all backgrounds? What steps is your organization taking to hire with diversity in mind? What is your organization’s current place within historic white supremacist and colonial systems that benefit a few at the expense of many?
These assessments and conversations can be challenging, but they’re essential for any organization dedicated to justice.
One of the best ways to thoughtfully recognize Juneteenth is to implement initiatives that prioritize justice, equity, diversity and inclusion within your organization.
Discuss company diversity initiatives and ensure employees that race and gender will never be barriers to their progress within the company. Consider bringing in guest speakers who can provide insights and engage in discussions on racial equity and social justice. Make Juneteenth an important date on the corporate calendar, signaling the organization’s commitment to JEDI principles.
2. Organize Juneteenth Events
By finding a way to get engaged with the local community, organizations can create a sense of unity and promote awareness and understanding of the significance of Juneteenth. Partner with Black community leaders to host events that educate and celebrate the history and culture of Juneteenth. These events can take various forms, such as panel discussions, workshops, film screenings or community gatherings.
3. Collaborate with Community Leaders
By collaborating with local Black community leaders to educate employees, government and business leaders, and other community members, organizations can help foster empathy, unity and social responsibility.
Consider partnering with Black community leaders to encourage people to participate in volunteer activities that support racial justice and equality. Your organization may even be able to partner with local organizations to decorate and display Juneteenth yard signs and banners that encourage your local community to eliminate systemic barriers that prevent Black residents from being empowered.
Also, consider organizing neighborhood block parties and inviting elected officials and guest speakers to attend. At these events, you can identify leaders to receive community service awards.
4. Provide Education and Training
Knowledge is power. Organize training and educational sessions to help people understand the history and significance of Juneteenth. These could include workshops, seminars and other activities that promote learning and understanding.
5. Advocate for Policy Change
Organizations can use their influence to support initiatives that aim to dismantle systemic racism and create a more just society. As organizational leaders, lobby for policy change at the local and state level to promote racial equity and justice. This can include advocating for police reform, voting rights or other policy changes that impact the Black community.
6. Support Black-Owned Businesses
Encourage people to support Black-owned businesses in their community by promoting them on social media, sharing their stories and making a conscious effort to patronize them. This act not only promotes economic empowerment but also contributes to the growth and sustainability of the local Black community. Consider hosting giveaways or organizing gift boxes for employees using products exclusively from Black-owned businesses.
Celebrating Juneteenth is an opportunity for organizations to deepen their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. By engaging employees, local leaders and community members in meaningful ways, organizations can foster an inclusive culture, promote education and awareness, and contribute to the ongoing fight for racial justice.
Remember, this is not a one-time event but an ongoing journey toward equality.
Let Juneteenth serve as a catalyst for change and inspire you to create a more inclusive and equitable future for all.
Photo description: Block party in New York City (Photo credit: New York Times)