What is Juneteenth?
According to The History Channel, Juneteenth marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1965 to announce the end of the Civil War and ensure all enslaved people would be freed. Short for June Nineteenth, Juneteenth happened a full two and a half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. It honors the end of slavery in the United States, and is an important day in Black history and culture, as it is the longest-running African American holiday. On June 17, 2021, Juneteenth became an official federal holiday.
How can my organization celebrate?
Here are a few ideas your organization can consider to honor the holiday:
- Offer PTO or holiday pay – As Juneteenth is a federal holiday, federal employees will have the day off. Some states also made it a holiday, giving state employees the day off as well, but private employers aren’t required to do the same. One way for these organizations to honor the day is to give employees a paid day off. If closing the business isn’t an option, consider giving employees incentive pay (such as time and a half) for working the holiday.
- Have an Honest Conversation – Another way to celebrate is to talk about the day. Some employees may not know the full history of Juneteenth and may be hesitant to ask questions in fear of being judged. One solution to this is to hold a moderated conversation for interested employees. This can be in person or online, and will give employees the chance to learn, as well as share any personal experiences as to why Juneteenth is important to them.
- Host a Lunch & Learn – Another way to keep the conversation going is to invite a guest speaker for a lunch and learn. These interactive sessions are a great way to continue educating one another and bringing in an outside expert will give employees a different perspective and a chance to ask questions they might feel uncomfortable asking a fellow employee. While learning is the primary goal, lunch and learns also typically have employer-provided food. This is a great opportunity to offer Juneteenth-themed food and continue the celebration.
- Provide a list of organizations and businesses to support – Once employees feel more educated on the holiday, they might be more inclined to want to give back. Employers can research, compile and share a list of non-profits and businesses that are striving for social and economic justice and are working to make a change. Additionally, employers can offer a donation matching program for employees that make a contribution.