This year, Juneteenth falls amidst the tragic deaths of Black people at the hands of the police, and civil unrest in every state in the U.S. Juneteenth is a well-timed opportunity to contemplate, educate, and reflect on the pervasive issue of racial justice in our country.
Juneteenth is commemorated each year on June 19th and marks the day the Emancipation Proclamation was read to Black African slaves in Texas in 1865. Texas was the most remote of the Confederate states, so although the proclamation was officially ratified on January 1, 1863, it took two and a half years for word that the slaves had been freed to reach the state. However, the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in all U.S. states – that didn’t occur until December of 1865, with the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment.
While Juneteenth is not a federal holiday, 47 states as well as DC have passed legislation recognizing it as a holiday or observance – with Texas being the first state to do so, in 1980. Yet anecdotally, we know that far too many White people know little or nothing about its history or relevance.
With the issue of racial injustice front and center, awareness and recognition of the holiday is finally becoming more mainstream. This year’s Juneteenth offers a timely way for corporations and individuals to support employee diversity.
Corporations, many of which are ACCP members, are recognizing and observing Juneteenth by giving employees a paid day off, including Target, MasterCard, Twitter, Nike, Deutsch NY, Adobe, and Lyft, with more scheduled to follow.
But Juneteenth should be more than just a day off. How can leaders of corporate citizenship help their companies observe in a way that is more impactful? By educating employees and encouraging actionable activities, social impact teams can help their companies be more substantive. Here are a few suggestions:
- Provide employees with a list of virtual volunteer opportunities for Juneteenth, especially with local organizations focused on impacting Black communities. For a list of organizations, please click here.
- Share a list of webcasts and other resources for employees and encourage them to learn more about racial justice issues; consider these resources: NAACP and Black Lives Matter.
- If your company is closed for Juneteenth, draft an email auto-response indicating why the company is closed and share it with your employees. Include brief info about Juneteenth and the Juneteenth link above.
- Partner with your company’s Employee Resource Groups and ensure the topics they are discussing are being looked at through a racial equity lens on a company-wide scale.
- If your company is not closed – or in the weeks following the holiday - encourage facilitated discussion among employees regarding racial equity and justice.
- Make a case for commemorating Juneteenth more significantly in the years to come.
With many corporations issuing official statements on racial equity, the Juneteenth holiday provides an opportunity for companies to put their words into action. Please share with us how you or your company will be marking the holiday this year.