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The Juneteenth Federal Holiday and What it Means for Employers

The Juneteenth federal holiday is a chance for employers and employees to remember the emancipation of African Americans enslaved in the United States. Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19 every year, and President Joe Biden signed a bill making it a federal holiday in 2021.

As movements like Black Lives Matter gain momentum, many groups across the US have taken it upon themselves to celebrate the Juneteenth federal holiday meaningfully. It is the anniversary of the day when Union Major General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and set the last group of Black American slaves free in 1865.  The black holiday Juneteenth is an opportunity for organizations to impart valuable lessons in diversity, inclusion, and equality. A Juneteenth without cultural appropriation will pave the way for a more inclusive and trustworthy workplace that acknowledges the significant contributions of the Black community.

black holiday juneteenth

Celebrating Juneteenth at work can open the door to honest conversations about inclusivity.

Who can celebrate Juneteenth?

Organizations that plan on commemorating June 19, must ensure that they celebrate Juneteenth without cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation refers to adoption of elements of a culture without giving due acknowledgment. Often, this is done in a disrespectful and exploitative manner which causes more harm than good.  

The Juneteenth federal holiday has opened up the day for commercialization and it is not surprising to see food festivals, get together, and special events planned around this day. Examples of cultural appropriation in recent times include white celebrities sporting bantu knots without understanding the tradition and people not crediting black creators and misusing their work.

A Juneteenth without cultural appropriation for employers can be done by carrying out some of the below-mentioned activities. Celebrating Juneteenth at work is the first step in recognizing the significance of this holiday in the US. 

1. Decorate the Workplace

As Juneteenth falls on a Sunday this year, most employers are expected to commemorate the day on Monday, June 20. One of the ways in which employers can call attention to the significance of the day is to decorate the workplace in Juneteenth colors – red, green, and black. Originally, the colors were red, white, and blue, but many have adopted the Pan-African flag to call attention to the blood, soil, and prosperity of Africa and its people. Red represents the millions who lost their lives, black represents the soil of the Nile valley and the unification of the African diaspora while green signifies fertility and prosperity of the African people.

 2. Contribute to Charity and Community

From contributing in cash and kind to local African American charities, employers can also arrange a day out to help those in need. Teams can organize fun events to raise money for charity. This can double up as a team-building activity as one can use this time to host a food festival, talent show, games, or a backyard sale-like auction to raise money.

Charities like Black Lives Matter, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and The Black Youth Project (BYP) are known for their work towards fighting racial injustice and social activism.

3.  Tour a Museum or Host a Virtual Movie Day

Depending on whether most of the employees are remote or in-office, employers can choose to host one or the other. Touring a Black culture museum will create better awareness about our history and help others empathize with the struggles of the Black community. It is also one way to acknowledge the contributions and sufferings of the slaves, and to ensure that nobody is discriminated against based on their skin color. Arrange for a local tour guide who can explain the exhibits in detail and give you better insight into the dark time in history.  

If most of the team works remotely, it would be a good idea to select a movie with Juneteenth themes and watch it virtually. You can hold discussions on the factuality of the issues addressed in the movie, or engage in a discussion on how to make the workplace more inclusive.

Anna Verasai
Anna Versai is a Team Writer at The HR Digest; she covers topics related to Recruitment, Workplace Culture, Interview Tips, Employee Benefits, HR News and HR Leadership. She also writes for Technowize, providing her views on the Upcoming Technology, Product Reviews, and the latest apps and softwares.

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