I didn't even know Juneteenth existed until last summer. It still surprises me that I went that long without hearing about it. But I was lucky enough to cover the day's history for Verb, and it very quickly became one of my favorite holidays. After diving into it last year, I feel a real sense of pride whenever I think about Juneteenth. It's a reminder that despite facing extreme adversity, humanity is still capable of striving for a better tomorrow. Something that, especially after living through the last year, I needed to remember.
I'm so proud that Verb has added Juneteenth to its list of paid holidays. It gives us the chance to reflect and educate ourselves on the events that led up to that amazing day in Galveston, Texas, on June 19th, 1865, when the last of the enslaved African Americans were finally accepted by the entire nation as free citizens of the United States of America, as they had unknowingly been for months.
Juneteenth celebration in 1900 at Eastwoods Park. Credit: Austin History Center
But after reading through the history again a couple of days ago, I started to wonder what we're doing to celebrate the holiday today. What's going on in America to commemorate Juneteenth this year? And if you're reading this wondering what you can do as a company to spread awareness of the day or use this opportunity to strengthen your culture, that's even better! I'll talk through a few tips to help you get started.
While 2020 saw a huge spike in awareness for Juneteenth, I was glad to see that one year later, that recognition shows no signs of slowing down. Massachusetts is celebrating Juneteenth for the first time as an officially recognized state holiday, with celebrations scheduled all over the state. In fact, there are all kinds of events happening throughout the United States, from New York to Atlanta, Denver, and San Francisco, just to name a few. Those will undoubtedly continue in the years to come, especially because next year, Juneteenth will likely be a federally recognized public holiday at long last.
But on this year, if large public gatherings aren't your thing (I can't blame you), you could always use the day to educate yourself on one of the many places in America that had a history surrounding the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, support Black-owned businesses, or just reflect on the history of the holiday and what it means to you.
Of course, if you're someone who has a bit of influence in your company's culture or decision-making process, there are quite a few things you can do to help spread awareness, educate more people, or get your company involved in recognizing Juneteenth. By making it a corporate holiday, you can reassure your employees that their personal histories matter and that you're taking steps to promote reform and activism. However, creating a new paid holiday isn't something every company can realistically do, and in that case, you can still show that your company promotes an inclusive and diverse workforce by donating to one of the many organizations fighting for racial justice, sponsoring a relevant workplace activity, or even by inviting a guest speaker to talk through current issues.
I hope that this helps show that even though Juneteenth happened over a century ago, people have been fighting for racial justice every day since then. Whether you're a company, a family, or an individual, there are a ton of things you can do to help the cause. To spread the word that every citizen in this country deserves equal rights, freedom, and independence. Not just on June 19th, but every day. But hey, Juneteenth is the perfect time for a reminder.
Speaking of reminders, Fast Company made a great video about Juneteenth and the observation amongst companies across the country last year. You can check it out below.
About the Author:
Spencer Sandoval is a nerd culture enthusiast who enjoys gaming, podcasting, and all things tech. Writing has been his hobby for decades now, and he doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon.