Juneteenth, also known as Jubilee Day, commemorates the first day African Americans truly obtained freedom in the United States. It is also a federal holiday that some organizations overlook for fear of celebrating the “wrong way.” Yet, celebrating Juneteenth at work not only honors this pivotal moment in American history but also underscores a company’s commitment to equality. While there is no “right way” when it comes to celebrating, here are seven ideas HR leaders can use to celebrate Juneteenth in the workplace.

1. Educate and Raise Awareness

It may have started in the 1860s, but Juneteenth is the newest federal holiday since MLK Day was signed in the ‘80s. There may be employees who do not understand why Juneteenth is important to celebrate. Organize a lunch-and-learn session focused on the history and significance of Juneteenth. 

You can also invite local historians, scholars, or speakers who can provide deep insights into the holiday’s origins and its relevance today. But, for smaller organizations with limited budgets, consider distributing articles, videos, podcasts, and books about Juneteenth and African American history instead.

2. Organize Celebratory Events

Organize internal events like virtual panels, discussions, or excursions to watch African American musicians, theater productions, or poetry readings. It can be a fun time for employees to celebrate and learn together. Encourage participation from all levels of the organization as well.

3. Facilitate Reflection and Dialogue

Create safe spaces for employees to share their thoughts and experiences related to Juneteenth and racial equity. Leverage internal Employee Resource Groups (ERG) focused on African American or multicultural interests who can lead these Juneteenth discussions. Be sure to provide them with the resources and support needed to organize events and activities.

4. Support Black Professionals and Businesses

Juneteenth is a time when allies can uplift African Americans by investing in Black-owned businesses and offering mentorship or sponsorship programs to Black professionals. Consider creating a directory of local Black-owned businesses, professional tools, and other career development services to share with employees.

5. Celebrate Juneteenth as a Paid Holiday

One of the simplest and easiest ways to celebrate Juneteenth is as a paid holiday to honor its significance and allow employees to participate in celebrations and reflection. Instead of working, provide optional activities such as volunteering with organizations that support African American communities. This demonstrates a genuine commitment to recognizing and valuing African American history and culture.

6. Commit to Long-Term Change

Juneteenth is a chance to assess and strengthen your company’s DEI policies. Hold town hall meetings, anonymous discussion forums, and ERG-led discussions to offer space for feedback. Policies should always uphold inclusivity, equity, and fair treatment for all employees.

7. Measure Impact and Gather Feedback

After your Juneteenth celebrations, survey employees to gather feedback on the celebrations and educational activities. Then, share the outcomes and impact of Juneteenth celebrations with the entire organization. It will be a chance to highlight the workplace community and initiate plans for the future.

Celebrating Juneteenth at work is more than just an observance; it’s a commitment to acknowledging and honoring African American history, culture, and contributions. By taking action to celebrate Juneteenth, HR leaders can create a more meaningful and impactful workplace for all. 

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