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Meaningful Juneteenth Celebration Ideas for the Workplace

June 5, 2023

Juneteenth falls on June 19th every year and officially became a federal holiday in 2021. It marks Union troops arriving in Galveston in 1865 to free the slaves still being held in Texas, many of whom had been transported from other slave-owning states to avoid freeing them. Finding meaningful ways to celebrate Juneteenth can help unite your staff and advance your work in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

1. Schedule a day off

Private employers aren’t required to pay their employees for time off, even for federal holidays. However, scheduling the day off for all employees and paying them for that time makes a strong statement and is one of the most common ways to celebrate Juneteenth, since it shows that this holiday is an important historical event for your company.

2. Invite a speaker to the office

Juneteenth is a good reason to start conversations around workplace diversity. If your staff members don’t have a lot of background on the holiday, consider inviting a guest speaker to the office. Set it up as a “lunch and learn” event for a casual environment where people can enjoy lunch together while listening to the speaker. Local professors, civil rights advocates, leaders in the African-American community and other related speakers can be good options. You can also schedule cultural performances for this day.

3. Encourage employees to speak up

If you have employees who are personally affected by diversity issues or have a unique experience related to Juneteenth, give them a platform for sharing with their colleagues if they feel comfortable. Let these employees decide what they want to share and how they want to present it to make it more impactful. This is another idea that works well as a brown bag lunch session, where employees gather with a lunch to learn informally. If you provide lunch for employees, incorporate foods traditionally used to recognize Juneteenth. This often includes red foods and beverages, such as red soda, red velvet cake and red fruit. Barbecue is another common food found on Juneteenth menus.

4. Share resources

Leading up to Juneteenth, gather various resources to help your staff members learn. This might include websites, news articles, blog posts, podcasts and videos related to Juneteenth, slavery or diversity. Share these resources with your employees via email or on your company website. You can also invite your employees to add their favorite resources on related topics to the collection. This can remain accessible on the website long after Juneteenth to maintain the ideas of diversity, equity and inclusion.

5. Take a work field trip

Give your employees a break from the office and explore the purpose of the holiday with a group outing. If your city hosts Juneteenth activities for adults, such as talks or celebrations, attend those events together. Not only do employees learn more about the history surrounding the day, but they also bond by learning together. If you can’t find any organized events, consider a work field trip to a local museum or historical site that relates to Black history. You might also volunteer at an organization that helps people of color in your community. Volunteering can help inspire your employees and make a tangible impact on the community.

6. Incorporate Black-owned businesses

Another way to make an impact on your community is to work with Black-owned businesses. If you cater lunch for your employees on Juneteenth, look for a restaurant with African-American owners or buy supplies for the day’s events from a Black-owned business. To make a lasting impact, look for more diversity in your supply chain. This is a meaningful way to improve your company’s overall diversity efforts.

7. Schedule DEI activities

Incorporating your DEI initiatives into the Juneteenth celebration can promote change in your company culture. You can use the day to launch a new diversity program in the workplace if you don’t already have one. Another option is hosting workshops with employees about diversity. These sessions can be educational, or they can be planning or brainstorming sessions to create a more inclusive office.

8. Share on social media

Share posts about the ways to celebrate Juneteenth that you chose for your office. This helps create a public reputation as a company that embraces and values diversity. It’s also a way to educate your social media followers in case they don’t know much about the holiday.

Choosing ways to celebrate Juneteenth

Consider your staff and what they want or need from Juneteenth celebrations. Get employees involved in planning the events to make them more meaningful, and try incorporating multiple ideas to make the day more valuable.

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