Juneteenth represents a significant milestone in Black Americans' struggle for freedom and equality. It commemorates the end of slavery and the beginning of a new chapter in the lives of millions of Black people who had been forcibly enslaved and oppressed for generations. It celebrates resilience, perseverance and the ongoing pursuit of freedom.
For many Black Americans, Juneteenth serves as a day of reflection and a reminder of the sacrifices made by their ancestors. It is an opportunity to honor their heritage, acknowledge the struggles endured, and celebrate the progress that has been achieved since the abolition of slavery.
Juneteenth also provides a platform for Black Americans to educate others about the history of slavery, its lasting effects, and the ongoing fight against systemic racism, inequity and injustice.
The designation of Juneteenth as a federal holiday in 2021 further underscores its importance and significance for the Black community and the nation. It highlights the need to acknowledge and confront Black Americans' historical injustices while promoting unity, equity and social justice for all.
As brands and companies recognize Juneteenth this year, it’s important to remember that supporting Black employees authentically and respectfully requires meaningful planning, understanding and action.
Here are some internal strategies that your organization can use.
One of the first steps to honoring Juneteenth authentically is to educate your employees about the holiday's history, significance, and ongoing relevance. Collaborate with your Black employee resource groups (ERGs), share articles and resources, or offer programs that delve into the history and meaning of Juneteenth.
Support Black-Owned Businesses
Encourage employees to support Black-owned businesses in their local markets or communities. You might provide lunch from Black-owned restaurants or purchase gifts for employees from Black-owned retailers to further your investment. At BCW, the agency’s African American Employee Resource (AAER) group created a list of Black-owned businesses across the United States for employees to #BuyBlack.
Encourage Employee Volunteering
Now that Juneteenth is a federal holiday, this could serve as an opportunity for employees to volunteer their time to organizations that support Black and BIPOC communities. At BCW AAER, the ERG is a supporter of Market Boxx, a nonprofit organization dedicated to eradicating food insecurity on HBCU campuses in Texas and North Carolina.
Facilitate Courageous Conversations
Create a safe space for dialogue about race and equity in the workplace. This might include a facilitated discussion, a Q&A with a DEI expert, or a panel discussion featuring Black employees sharing their personal and professional experiences. Be courageous and ignite new discussions during Juneteenth that can educate and empower your employees.
Create a Long-Term Commitment
Celebrating Juneteenth should be part of a broader commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. This might mean reviewing your onboarding and performance and promotion practices, elevating DE&I learning and development for colleagues and leadership to address retention challenges, and meaningfully engaging with your Black employees to understand their unique needs and experiences to create inclusive cultures and advance their careers in your organization.
Finally, remember to celebrate and champion Black culture. Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom and resilience, and this should be seen and felt across your organization’s initiatives in June and beyond.
Remember, it's not just about what you do on Juneteenth—it's about what you do the rest of the year to create equity, support and uplift your Black employees and the wider Black community.
To learn how your organization can make a lasting impact during Juneteenth and beyond, visit the BCW AAER: Engaging The Black Community Guide for best practices and industry insights.
Sabrina Browne is Vice President, Corporate Affairs at BCW.