Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19th each year and commemorates when the last enslaved African Americans learned of emancipation and their freedom and is celebrated as a day of hope. In recent years, Juneteenth has evolved into a celebration of African American heritage and a time to respect those who suffered greatly under the horrific injustices of slavery.
Juneteenth should be recognized by companies as a way to honor and celebrate African Americans in the workplace as well as bring attention to the continued inequality and injustice the BIPOC community still faces. Here are four ways companies can celebrate Juneteenth.
Plan a Juneteenth Volunteer Day
Community service is one of the best ways to show your company cares about more than just profit. It’s also one of the most effective ways to ensure employee engagement and loyalty which leads to long-term retention. It also builds a sense of community within your organization as your team has the opportunity to band together around a common cause. Juneteenth offers many opportunities for people to volunteer or provide community service. Partnering with BIPOC-focused or led organizations to volunteer is a great way for organizations to celebrate Juneteenth meaningfully.
If having people spend part or all of their workday volunteering, giving a financial contribution to a BIPOC charity or non-profit is also an excellent way to highlight Juneteenth. African American Leadership Forum (AALF), African American Roundtable, and Black Women for Wellness are just a few national non-profits that could benefit from your company’s support. But don’t stop with these national non-profits. Look for local organizations that support African Americans in your area. By supporting a Juneteenth event, your company can recognize the primary mission of Juneteenth and celebrate the local Black community.
Make Juneteenth a Paid Holiday
Juneteenth is an opportunity for businesses to show support for their employees and communities by making Juneteenth a paid holiday. Organizations that have made this move include Nike, JCPenney, and Target as well as many smaller companies in cities just like yours. Taking the day off allows your team to reflect on the holiday’s meaning or spend time volunteering in their community.
Providing your employees an out-of-office message about Juneteenth’s history and significance can make a more profound impact on why the holiday is being observed as shows you are a progressive, forward-thinking employer who cares for the wellbeing of all its employees. You can build your employer brand by showing the company’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equality.
Host a Lunch and Learn
Lunch and learns are an excellent way for an organization to bring their team together and make them educate them on the significance and importance of celebrating Juneteenth. There are various online webinars or training your team can watch, or you could bring in a speaker or BIPOC community leader to teach your team about Juneteenth. Or, go even further by hosting a panel discussion with employees, who can open up with each other, grow closer, and improve communication and teamwork skills.
Transparently Share Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Initiatives
Use Juneteenth as a launch pad to talk critically and honestly with your employees about the organization’s DEI initiatives. HR can share demographic breakdowns of your staff and acknowledge areas that are doing well and where you fall short in meeting DEI initiatives. Explain how DEI benefits a company by attracting talent that reflects the customers and communities it serves while increasing employee engagement, productivity, and retention.
Engage your employees in the process. Consider starting a DEI Committee within your organization to prioritize diversity and inclusion efforts and initiatives. Organizations can also offer other opportunities for their employees to participate in DEI initiatives like creating affinity groups or mentoring programs. Let them share their experiences so others can learn from them.
Juneteenth is considered one of the most important holidays for African Americans and should be recognized on a larger scale within organizations. By volunteering in the community, offering it as a paid holiday, hosting a lunch and learn to educate your team, and being open about the company’s DEI initiatives, your company can help employees celebrate Juneteenth.
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