In an effort to become a more inclusive organization, many companies are choosing to recognize the upcoming Juneteenth (June 19th) holiday. This year, the public holiday will be observed on Monday, June 20, 2022. Juneteenth workplace celebrations or organization recognitions can look very different depending on how a company may choose to celebrate. Nonetheless, it should share the same purpose: to recognize the people who help facilitate change for Black citizens in the United States and to remember the announcement in Galveston, Texas, over 150 years ago, that all American citizens could pursue the American dream and should be protected by its laws.
It is important to thoughtfully and carefully plan any efforts to recognize Juneteenth. This is especially important in light of the ongoing impacts of the events of the world, nation, and communities of color. Hosting a Juneteenth celebration or having your organization recognize the holiday demonstrates that the company and leaders are conscious of what’s happening. These efforts allow an organization to show empathy and understanding for their employees, provide an opening to hear different perspectives of those employees and provide an opportunity for stronger culture with employee engagement.
Other than providing employees with a paid day off, how can a company recognize and celebrate Juneteenth? Below are six ideas:
1. A Message from Senior Management: Like many events, Juneteenth creates an opportunity for Senior Management to inspire and lead by sharing the vision. At a minimum, management at the top should provide a reflective message on the meaning of Juneteenth and the journey ahead for the organization. This may include ways the organization is taking action and calling on the employee’s assistance in the journey, among others.
2. Find and Participate in Local Events: For companies who do not have time to plan or host a Juneteenth event, look in your communities for activities in honor of Juneteenth. Naturally, employees feel connected with their organizations when they actively participate in the community. You can plan a company outing to go to the celebrations together and participate all day or just for a few hours with other employees in the company.
3. Juneteenth Lunch and Learns: Lunch and learns combine a social event with a learning session. This enlightening idea can work with a guest speaker or presenter from within the organization who can lead other employees on Juneteenth-related discussions. It also allows the organization to open the floor for discussion amongst the attendees.
4. Donating to Charity Organizations or Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs): Donating to an HBCU or charity organization is another way to celebrate Juneteenth. This idea does not require employee participation in the donation but may provide an opportunity to organize a fundraiser to commemorate Juneteenth and raise funds. The organization may even consider matching the donations received.
5. Juneteenth Movie Night (or day): Movie nights are a way to celebrate Juneteenth by educating the workforce on Black history through video. The organization can commemorate the day by watching a Black-led movie or show together in-office or online, using your choice of video conferencing platform. There are many great lists of movies or shows to watch listed online.
6. Outline Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) Initiatives: The holiday provides a great opportunity to reflect on the holiday's history and the organization’s current DE&I efforts and future goals. The company may open up about its plans for unconscious bias training, inclusive hiring practices, or equitable compensation reviews.
Juneteenth is an important day to remember historical heroes while providing great opportunities to create awareness and engagement among employees. Not everyone observes or celebrates Juneteenth or even celebrates the same way. However, allowing your employees to recognize Juneteenth in the workplace can enhance the DE&I initiatives you already have or inspire new efforts.
Demetrius Pyburn focuses his practice on employment law and counsels clients on everyday compliance issues involving the ADA, FMLA, Title VII and other employment-related regulations.