Celebrating Juneteenth

By Alyssa Leonas posted 03-11-2022 09:27 AM


In June of 2021, Congress declared Juneteenth National Independence Day, often called Juneteenth, a federal holiday. That was the first time that a new federal holiday was announced in the United States in nearly four decades. Juneteenth is the annual holiday that commemorates June 19th, 1865, the day when the last group of enslaved Black Americans in Galveston, Texas, learned about the Emancipation Proclamation issued two years earlier.

Today, as many employers are working to enhance their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts, this newly declared federal holiday offers an opportunity to recognize and celebrate this momentous occasion in American history. While many Black Americans have known about and celebrated Juneteenth until recently, many Americans were unaware of the holiday and what it represents. In a Harvard Business Review survey of the U.S. workforce, only 41% of employees in the United States knew about Juneteenth before 2020. By May of 2021, that number had increased to 71%. Many employers are making efforts to maintain the national momentum in DEI, and celebrating Juneteenth as an organization provides an opportunity to do so.

As we approach Juneteenth 2022, here are some ideas about how to celebrate Juneteenth to recognize the experience of African-Americans and enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion within your organization.

  • Educate employees about the history and meaning of Juneteenth - many individuals are still learning what the holiday means.

  • Use the day to highlight and celebrate African American culture. Provide speakers, videos, and other resources to enhance understanding.

  • Highlight community Juneteenth celebrations that may be occurring outside of your organization.

  • Emphasize that the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans represents progress for all Americans.

  • Involve leadership in messaging. As with any initiative or organizational change, when it is communicated in multiple ways and comes from the top, employees notice and are more likely to see that it is important to the organization.

  • Celebrate by exploring DEI goals and initiatives such as hiring, promoting, and providing opportunities for career growth and advancement for people of color.

  • Before or after the celebration of Juneteenth, carve out time to celebrate the many perspectives and qualities of other groups and identities, including but not limited to other racial or ethnic groups, veterans, LGBTQ+, individuals living with disabilities, and immigrants.

Employers Council assists members with their DEI strategies, including customized services tailored to an organization’s unique needs. Contact us for more information.