Juneteenth is as American as a slice of apple pie.
Emancipation is in the DNA of our nation. Just as we celebrate the Fourth of July, Juneteenth symbolically marks the end of oppression for Black communities devastated by 400 years of slavery. This year marks the 155th annual celebration of Juneteenth in America, where currently, 47 states publicly recognize and observe this day of significance.
I’m a person at the intersection of many identities, a Black, cis-female, lesbian, masculine presenting woman, a southerner and, professionally, a D&I strategist. This conversation about navigating issues of race, cultural belonging and diversity strategies is not new, but it’s more relevant than ever.
Every corporation knows diversity is “good for business,” but how do we advance the conversation about anti-Black racism in corporations to deepen our knowledge and call to action organizational change in this critical moment? How do we position our diverse employees to feel that their communities are being represented, embraced and, most of all, celebrated? Allies, this is the part where you take notes. Listen up.
Here are four recommendations for corporations to advance and uplift Black voices during Juneteenth this week:
Silence is the same as complacency. Recognize and distinguish Juneteenth as a corporate holiday immediately. It’s the right thing to do for your brand and for your employees. If you haven’t yet, you may be falling behind. Last week, companies like Twitter, Square, NFL and Nike pledged to observe Juneteenth as a paid holiday for its employees indefinitely, a decision that makes these global brands stand out as industry leaders and champions others to do the same. In the diversity arena, I encourage corporations contemplating this decision to be leaders, not just followers.
Your Black and POC employees have a lot on their plates right now. In addition to navigating the trauma of recent events—George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells and Riah Milton—the list continues to grow. Each morning, we open our phones to see social media has generated another hashtag. Another voice unheard, another “I can’t breathe,” another restless night because we are traumatized by the knock on the other side of the door, or fearful of taking a jog or bird watching or driving our vehicles. Actively listen to the needs of your Black employees in this moment, and most of all, believe them when they say they do not have the capacity to explain sound bites from the Diversity 101 training to all their peers after navigating another hashtag.
Cut the act
Let’s put an end to performative allyship. Companies can uplift Black voices by encouraging all employees within the organization to engage in continuous learning and education. Work with learning and development and People teams to design curriculum to support global D&I discussions. Remember, we all hold privilege in areas we think about least often. Allyship is forever work.
Champion Black and POC employees’ progress in the company by promoting, developing, training, mentoring and sponsoring them. Provide the forum for healthy conversations to happen. Be bold, be transparent, be compassionate leaders. If you have a voice, speak up for Black and POC employees when they’re in the room and when they’re not.
We are tired. We have Zoom fatigue. We are asking you to take action. We are calling on our allies. We are our ancestors’ dreams. We are paying it forward for the betterment of our communities. We are intersectional. We are stronger together. We are celebrating our emancipation.
We are asking you to stand with us in unapologetic solidarity.
We are here to stay.