May 10th, 2022

6 Ways to Celebrate Juneteenth In the Workplace

Juneteenth — June 19 — was designated a national holiday in 2021, but is now a state holiday in Colorado. The bill was passed in April of this year and signed into law by Governor Polis on May 2. Colorado joins several other states that have also officially recognized it as a holiday. Juneteenth commemorates the date when Union soldiers freed slaves in Galveston, Texas, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed. The holiday is important to many, symbolizing for some a true end to slavery and the beginning of African-American independence. 

Holidays are a great opportunity to create connection, awareness, and engagement among employees. Not everyone observes or celebrates every holiday — or even celebrates in the same way. But giving employees the opportunity to recognize Juneteenth can enhance the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives you already have in your workplace or inspire efforts to start one. Or it can simply be about creating a lighthearted, celebratory atmosphere that employees appreciate. 

Here are some ways you can observe the Juneteenth holiday at your business: 

1. Have an honest conversation

Many people are unaware of Juneteenth and the story behind it, so it’s understandable if some employees are hesitant to talk about it or ask questions, fearing how others might judge them. 

One way to help is to invite interested employees and leaders to a moderated group conversation — online or in-person — that allows them to learn more about the significance of the date in a respectful and positive setting. Employees can also share personal stories about their own histories or experiences, why Juneteenth matters to them, or how someone who is new to Juneteenth might take what they’ve learned and apply it to their life.  

2. Sponsor a visit to a museum or heritage center

For some, a holiday is just about taking a day off from work. But many employees may want to use the Juneteenth holiday to deepen their understanding of past historical events and Black experiences.

To help bring more relevance to the holiday, you can sponsor an employee visit to a Black museum or heritage center. And if an in-person visit isn’t an option for everyone, many museums and centers provide educational materials and other resources on their website that you can encourage employees to access if they want to learn more.

3. Support Black-owned businesses

Black-owned businesses are only possible because of the end of slavery. There’s almost no better way to celebrate Juneteenth than to make a direct impact on the economy and in the community by supporting Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs. 

One idea is to host an office luncheon or party in which the decorations, catering service, music, entertainment, and gift bags are all provided by Black-owned businesses. Make sure to display each business’s website or pass out business cards and brochures so employees can promote the businesses on their own and tell their friends and families too.

4. Invite a guest speaker

Education and conversation can happen in many different forums. Another way to facilitate both is by inviting a guest to speak about Juneteenth and all the many ways it remains significant today. 

Consider having a Black author, professor, activist, artist, elected official, or community leader come to the office and give a talk to interested employees, and hold a Q&A session afterward. This type of talk can also be conducted online so remote workers have a chance to participate too. 

5. Play a Juneteenth game

A fun way to celebrate any holiday is to play a game at work — such as a trivia game in which employees can team up with each other to answer questions and compete for prizes.

A Juneteenth-themed trivia game is a lively way for employees to engage with the holiday and build camaraderie with each other at the same time. You can give them a few days to learn about Black history, culture, and Juneteenth specifically, and then test their knowledge with an in-person or online trivia round. The team with the most points wins a prize, such as a gift certificate to a Black-owned business.

6. Provide a list of organizations to donate to

Many people are motivated to give money when they learn about a cause or an issue that impacts others. Juneteenth is a time when employees may reflect upon its larger meaning for society, and decide that giving back is the best way for them to celebrate the holiday.

Do the legwork for your employees by researching and compiling a list of charitable organizations, nonprofits, groups, and businesses that are striving for social and economic justice and working diligently to uphold the values of freedom and equality for all in our country. You can consider matching any employee donations to show your support as well. With Juneteenth being a new state holiday in Colorado, now is the time to think about how to bring more diversity, equity, and inclusion to your workplace. Obsidian HR can help. For advice on how to create DEI plans and initiatives, talk to our experts or download the guide.

How to Promote Diversity, Equity & Inclusion In Small Businesses

Learn strategies and tips for improving diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices in your small business.

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