MODELING THE SPIRIT OF JUNETEENTH ALL YEAR
On our collective journey reflecting on and working toward equitable change, how can we rethink the celebration of our nation’s history and the racial realities of others’ journeys? As we approach July 4 and the Independence Day of our nation, we challenge businesses to think about what independence for all truly means.
This week, Juneteenth marked a historic milestone, as President Biden signed legislation into law establishing June 19 as Juneteenth National Independence Day, commemorating the end of slavery in the United States by officially designating it as federal holiday. Juneteenth has long been an annual moment of celebration and reflection. But more than a passing moment on the calendar, the history of Juneteenth reminds us that, in our nation, the value and significance of one’s contributions are often still predicated on their racial identity.
On Jan. 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln, signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing thousands of enslaved African Americans. The document stated that all enslaved people in confederate states in rebellion against the Union “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” Due to southern state economy, Southern plantation owners refused to concede. Therefore, news of freedom did not reach all enslaved people immediately. For example, in Galveston, Texas it wasn’t until two years after the abolishment of slavery, June 19, 1865, that the union soldiers arrived and reinforced the emancipation of all people. This day officially became known as “Juneteenth” and the first official celebration took place in Texas June 19 the following year. The 13th amendment officially ended the institution of slavery.
Today, while Juneteenth is a moment to celebrate and honor this history, we know that many injustices and inequities remain. With every step toward progress or justice, we are reminded of how much work remains before us.
So, as we celebrate Juneteenth and look ahead to July 4, consider how you and your organization will celebrate these aspects of American history in a way that recognizes the journey to freedom for all people, a journey that we all continue to navigate. Acknowledging and learning more about Juneteenth is a manner of equitable practice and active engagement in inclusive discourse. Beyond a commemorative holiday observation, consider how Juneteenth can serve as a model for how businesses demonstrate their commitment to celebrating all cultures, identities, and religious orientations at any point in the year. Think about ways to create better engagement for individuals of all backgrounds within your organization, creating welcoming spaces and opportunities for them to share their own narratives to highlight their lived experiences that may be very different from many of their peers in the workplace. Honor the spirit of Juneteenth, through continuous action and improvement:
· Hold listening sessions and conversations on race.
· Celebrate and recognize the contributions of your Black employees, leaders, and stakeholders.
· Assess your talent processes and systems to eliminate bias and ensure equitable promotion and advancement opportunities.
· Lobby for changes and reform in inequitable policies, laws, and programs
The passing of each commemorative holiday or month offers the chance to reflect and to educate, but most importantly, to put into practice the actions necessary to continue our journey. We are here to support and walk with you on that journey.
Dr. Juhanna Rogers is vice president of Racial Equity and Social Impact at CenterState CEO. Contact Dr. Rogers at email@example.com to learn more about racial equity and social impact initiatives, DEI training courses and consultation services available through CenterState CEO.