How Your Business Can Respectfully Honor Juneteenth
June 19th, 1865 is one of the most significant days in American history. This is the day when Union general Gordon Granger brought news proclaiming the end of American slavery to the people of Galveston, Texas.
Now honored as a day of celebration and reflection, Juneteenth has become important for Americans from all walks of life. As a small business owner, you’ve probably considered honoring and celebrating the holiday in your own manner, but, like many, you may not understand how to approach Juneteenth.
Know the History and the Reason for Juneteenth
The first thing you can do as a business leader is to educate yourself on the holiday and its purpose. Before planning events, efforts, and festivities, take the time to read on the history of the holiday, the events leading up to June 19th, 1865, and how the holiday has evolved throughout the decades.
A little research on your part will be the foundation for a well-informed, respectful Juneteenth celebration.
Remember: It’s a Sensitive Topic
Juneteenth can be seen in many ways. Historically, it appears, the holiday was marked with lively celebrations, barbecues, baseball, and even rodeos. Today it has, in many ways, become more of a solemn holiday, a day of reflection.
Companies trying to honor Juneteenth have faced criticism even if their intentions are noble. Wal-Mart, for example, released an ice cream honoring the holiday, but appeared to miss the mark and was met with mixed reactions and outright criticism.
It’s important that you keep this in mind. Be sensitive to the holiday and how it’s perceived differently by different individuals.
Register Your Company with Juneteenth.com
Juneteenth World Wide Celebration, which operates the website juneteenth.com, has an open registry of businesses and organizations that honor the holiday. Registering your small business helps the group document, quantify, and study the impact of Juneteenth.
This is an important and simple task for maintaining the holiday and making it a national event.
Host an In-House Lunch-and-Learn
Now that you are informed on the history of the topic, mindful of its significance, and registered with Juneteenth World Wide Celebration, you can start to make efforts throughout your organization.
Hosting an in-house lunch-and-learn is a great way to share what you have learned and help your employees better understand this holiday. A lunch hour with provided meals and a short presentation is a simple and respectful way to honor Juneteenth.
Give Employees a Volunteer Day
Juneteenth is often viewed as a day to give back to the community. With that in mind, you may want to add a volunteer day to your festivities. On an appropriate date (Juneteenth 2022 is on a Sunday), offer the chance for employees to take the day off and volunteer with their favorite organizations.
This can be a paid day off if possible, but allowing your employees to leave work, whether paid or not, will give them the chance to participate in this important holiday.
Invite a Special Guest Speaker
Bringing an expert on American history, or someone who has a special perspective on the holiday, can help create awareness and improve your company’s overall understanding of the event.
A speaker could be virtual or in-person, whichever fits your needs. Options include historians, local leaders, authors, and any influential personalities who can provide a unique perspective on Juneteenth.
Host a Social Barbecue
Historically, Juneteenth celebrations have included many different activities, including games, music, and meals. According to Juneteenth World Wide Celebration, barbecuing became one of the main activities for early Juneteenth celebrations. Sharing food and socializing with others was fundamental to the holiday, allowing people the “share in the spirit and aromas (of) their ancestors” while forming strong bonds in the community. The barbecue, they say, was “the center of attention at Juneteenth celebrations.”
You may not be able to create a barbecue pit at your small business, but you can honor the history of Juneteenth celebrations with a cookout, perhaps at a local park if your facility can’t host a large event.
Offer Books on American History, the Civil War, Civil Rights, and Emancipation
Educating ourselves is perhaps the most meaningful thing we can do to honor Juneteenth. Help your company and its employees be even more informed by offering a variety of literature that focuses on the holiday, slavery, emancipation, and other related topics.
Books on American history, and especially the Civil War, which led to the events of June 19th, 1865, seem particularly relevant this time of year. If your budget allows, consider purchasing and offering free books on the subject. From history to social issues, these books can help you create a more knowledgeable, well-informed staff while helping you celebrate the holiday in a respectful manner.
With these ideas, you can create a Juneteenth event appropriately celebrates the holiday.