Last year, Juneteenth was proclaimed a federal holiday, meaning this year is set to be the first time many organizations and businesses will celebrate and observe this meaningful and historic day.
On top of giving employees the day off to rest, it’s worth considering celebrating Juneteenth within the workplace to demonstrate commitment to the holiday, acknowledge its historical impact, and create traditions around it.
What is Juneteenth anyway?
For those who may be unaware, Juneteenth is celebrated every year on June 19th (however, if it falls on a weekend like this year, it will be observed on either Friday or Monday).
On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston Texas, and announced the end of slavery and the Civil War to enslaved African Americans. This official announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, which had actually been issued more than two and a half years earlier by President Abraham Lincoln.
“Juneteenth is a celebration of enduring resilience and freedom from bondage,” explains Drew Lewis, vice president, diversity, and talent at ADP. “In the spirit of liberty, it’s a time for everyone to unite, dance, sing, eat good food, and rejoice in the camaraderie of co-workers, friends, and loved ones.”
How can we celebrate Juneteenth at work?
Here are six workplace-appropriate Juneteenth celebration ideas to help inspire and guide you as you organize your own festivities. Work looks different for many of us these days, so don’t forget to think about virtual connection points for hybrid and remote employees.
Ask leaders to talk about the holiday
Juneteenth isn’t a new holiday, but for many, it hasn’t been observed as a federal holiday yet, so there may still be some confusion among employees as to why we celebrate it. In the name of clarity, ask your organization’s leaders to talk about Juneteenth, its history, and why they’ve decided to celebrate it.
While each organization or business will have its own answers, it’s important that they are voiced and made known to employees, while also making the discussion as inclusive and collaborative as possible.
Host a “did you know?” Campaign
A “did you know” campaign is a wonderful way to teach employees about Juneteenth. Make sure to display facts about the holiday on any screens in common areas within the office, or prepare a “did you know?” email series about Juneteenth.
Here are some facts to get you started:
- Did you know that, on June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, which officially made Juneteenth a federal holiday?
- In 2021, the city of Galveston, Texas, dedicated a 5,000-square-foot mural, known as “Absolute Equality,” where Granger made his announcement.
- Did you know that Juneteenth goes by a few different names, such as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Cel-Liberation Day, Second Independence Day, and Emancipation Day?
Create out-of-office message templates
This year, Juneteenth falls on a Sunday, but some employers have decided to observe the holiday on the next day, Monday the 20th. For workers with internal instant messaging applications and professional email accounts, think about crafting an out-of-office template message to include in their IM statuses or automatic email responses.
This not only lets others know that your workplace is observing the holiday but offers an opportunity to talk about why your organization is committed to observing Juneteenth. Instead of a generic “I’m out of the office today but will get back to you as soon as possible” type of message, you could choose to get creative by inclined some facts about the holiday or why observing Juneteenth is important to your workplace.
Serve traditional Juneteenth foods
An integral part of Juneteenth celebrations is gathering around great food with friends, loved ones, and in this case, colleagues! So don’t shy away from the idea of a nourishing meal.
Consider adding foods historically linked to Juneteenth. For instance, Texas-style barbecue is a good choice as it highlights Texas’ ties to Juneteenth. Red foods and an array of tasty side dishes are also commonly served on Juneteenth.
Incorporate celebratory tunes
Music also plays a crucial role in Juneteenth celebrations since Texans began celebrating the holiday in 1866. If you can, consider organizing live music, dancing, and singing as part of your Juneteenth festivities as well.
If recorded music is more available to you, then look online to find multitudes of Juneteenth streaming-service playlists.
Get active on social media
If your workplace has social media, then perhaps publish posts about your organization’s Juneteenth celebrations on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever platform you use. This will help raise awareness of the holiday and offer more opportunities to start conversations about its significance.