There’s been a shift in equality over the last fifteen months, and I must say, it’s a beautiful thing. As corporations and individuals alike prepare to celebrate Juneteenth for the first time in American history, let’s remember it’s more than another paid holiday. It’s more than a black, red, and green flag. It’s more than posters around the office. Juneteenth represents the very spirit of allyship. There’s no way that I, as a black woman, would be free to voice my opinions today without white allies have made this a possibility in 1865.
Suppose you need a crash course on Juneteenth (as this is not something consistently taught in schools). On June 19, 1865, Blacks were informed (by federal troops, no less) that they were all free. ALL blacks were free. The significance of that statement is not lost on me, especially considering in 1992, Rodney King was beaten half to death by police (who were let off). Thirty years later, the entire world witnessed Derek Chauvin choke the life out of unarmed George Floyd. Is it sad that it has taken thousands of lives and over two centuries for the United States to acknowledge there’s a problem finally?
Yes. The answer is yes.
It’s also a turning of the tide. Juneteenth should have been recognized as an American national holiday well before 2021. There’s no question about that. It was, after all, an American accomplishment, right? Today, it finally is! And I can’t see any organization deciding ten years from now not to celebrate it. NEW history is being made. Right here. Right now. And this new generation of leaders cares about fairness and equality.
Today, XX companies in the United States have reported they have made Juneteenth a national holiday and will celebrate as a company. Among them the NFL, Target, Uber, GM, Adobe, JPMorgan, Postmates, and several others. I’d consider this a step in the right direction. Now that we’ve agreed to celebrate, below are a few tips on how to “show up” for your employees and make this an educational opportunity as well.
Embrace emotions. This is a significant acknowledgment for many employees and one they likely never expected to celebrate at work openly. Allow them to be emotional and provide a safe space for them to do so.
Be open to education. Over 60% of Americans admitted that Juneteenth is new for them. This is ok. Don’t pressure your employees or yourselves into believing you have to have all the answers. You don’t. You do, however, need to be open to being educated. Read, watch webinars, reach out to colleagues, friends, and family to begin engaging.
Monitor. This is likely the first Juneteenth, and as with anything new, you are bound to make some mistakes. Take NOTES, so you don’t repeat them next year.
Preparation is key. Be prepared for some pushback. Not everyone will like or understand why this is a new holiday for the company. Have a response prepared, and not just anything. Be prepared to explain why it’s essential to the company, individuals, and leadership. One can’t be independent of the other.
Do it for the people. Now is not the time to seek praise recognition, so don’t make this about getting attention or praise. This is a unique opportunity to connect with your team and begin creating or enhancing a deep sense of inclusion in the company culture.
As we’re all navigating this new holiday, we must remember this is bigger than any person or organization. We are making history! Set your goals, do your homework, prepare to learn, allow your team to be emotional, and permit yourself to be vulnerable. If you find yourself a bit stuck, we’re a “figs” call away.
Happy Juneteenth from TaChelle and the FIG team.