Juneteenth, a Time for Conversation and Action

What I want my employer to know about Juneteenth, a Black woman’s perspective

As Juneteenth approaches, I can’t help but feel enlightened yet disappointed that it was only three short years ago that I learned about this day and what it meant. In all my years of both public and higher education, the day of Juneteenth was never taught to myself or classmates.

It was most recently that more states started recognizing Juneteenth as a day of celebration and remembrance, with Texas being the first state to make it a holiday in 1980.

The story of Juneteenth is a truly significant day filled with both hope and melancholy, in which two years after the creation of the Emancipation Proclamation enslaved people in Texas were finally freed, marking June 19th, 1865, the official day all slavery in the United States ended. Major General Gordon Granger presented an order to inform slave owners of President Abraham Lincoln’s declaration.

156 years ago, enslaved people became free men and women. They were granted the right to be compensated and given the basic human rights that every person deserved. More struggle ensued for Black Americans however, during Reconstruction, with Jim Crow laws following soon after, delaying financial and educational progress. 

I want the conversation of Juneteenth to continue, and while I may no longer be an undergraduate hoping to take classes to learn more “untold” history, as an employee working in the corporate world, I feel that companies should enter the chat.

If you are a leader who wants to be an advocate for Black American rights and further progress ending racism, then I urge you to consider the following:

Put Diversity Into Action

Diversity is open to a wide range of race, religions, sexual orientation, gender, neuro and physical abilities. If you are truly committed to making your organization more diverse, then do so. It’s unwise to market your company as “diverse” when, for example, less than 5% of your employees are Black. You can begin to truly treasure what you measure by setting goals and holding your hiring manager accountable. Create initiatives to really drive recruitment to seek more diverse applicants, for example, establishing a DEI (diversity, equality and inclusion) hiring process. Target diversity focused recruiting channels such as diversity.com, blackjobs.com and blackcareernetwork.com to build a more diverse candidate pipeline.

Close the Wage Gap

According to the 2020 US Census Bureau “Black women in the United States who work full time, year-round are typically paid just 63 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.” Part of advocating for Black Americans in the workplace means establishing fair compensation and advocating for fairness if they low ball their salary expectations.

Own Your Education 

There is no designated Black or African American to go to for all the answers in regards to history and the current state of the country’s attitudes towards them. It is wise to learn more about African American history from experts and institutions. Don’t burden Black employees with the task of educating your entire organization. If there is a desire to enlist Black employees to participate in DEI committees, compensate them for their time and the emotional impact that work will have on them.

Give Black Employees Space

Tragedies happen that can make the whole nation stand in solidarity, and social media becomes overactive, while Black employees have to juggle work and their emotions when what they need is time to step back and heal. Sometimes I find myself immersed in work in order to divert my attention from the news, however, having the option to step away is always better than just “checking in”

Employee activation is giving your employees a place to thrive and a big part of that is the experience. Communicate how important it is to recognize this day and begin implementing  germane strategies to improve company culture for Black employees. As you think about ways in which your organization can celebrate Juneteenth, keep in mind that you will be creating a positive and progressive experience for Black employees now and for years to come.

“The recognition that more needs to be done on racial equity inside and outside the workplace has led to a record number of companies providing recognition of Juneteenth – a historic day for many African-Americans celebrating the reading of federal orders in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865, which proclaimed slaves to be free.”

Tyrone P. Thomas Thoughts for Employers Celebrating Juneteenth for the First Time | Mintz.com