10 Ideas for Celebrating Juneteenth at Work This Year
Juneteenth has become a more widely celebrated holiday over the past few years, and there are many ways to educate and engage your workplace about its significance. Whether you’re celebrating with your team for the first time or the twentieth, we’ve put together some ideas to help make this year memorable.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day and “Jubilee Day,” is a federal holiday commemorating and celebrating the freedom of enslaved African Americans. While President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, many enslavers attempted to evade it by moving enslaved people to Texas and did so successfully for nearly two years. Union troops were sent to Galveston, Texas in the summer of 1865 and freed over 250,000 people on June 19.
Why is Juneteenth Important?
Racial injustice and discrimination persist today, which means Juneteenth is still an opportunity to educate, reflect, and rectify.
Many of the ideas below are about engaging your team in activities and raising awareness. Still, it’s also important to reflect on how your organization can help combat the struggles that Black Americans continuously experience at work and in the community.
1. Advocate for Celebrating Juneteenth if Your Workplace Doesn’t Already
The first step to celebrating Juneteenth at work is advocating for a celebration if your workplace doesn’t acknowledge the holiday. Ask leadership to make time to learn about the holiday and its importance. Once the decision-makers are involved, you can host activities, start a fundraiser, and more.
2. Create a Juneteenth Resource Guide
Many people still need to familiarize themselves with the history of Juneteenth and its significance, so open up the conversation by creating a resource guide that contains books, websites, articles, organizations, and experts on the topic. Many people may feel more comfortable engaging in other activities once they’re more educated about the holiday.
3. Organize a Juneteenth-themed Book Club
You can start a book club about Juneteenth to educate further and engage your team. You could even start the book club as early as February (for Black History Month) so people can read and discuss the selections closer to the date. These books also don’t have to be specific to Juneteenth but could also be about the experiences of Black Americans or how to combat racism. Even better, you can hold a book club like this year-round. Here’s a list to get you started.
4. Support Black-owned Businesses
One of the best ways to support the African American community is to support Black-owned businesses. Especially if you’re planning on holding an event for Juneteenth, you can hire Black vendors for decorations, food, and other services. You can also partner with other businesses throughout the year.
5. Hire a Community Expert or Educator to Give a Talk
Hosting an event with a guest speaker is an excellent way to engage and educate your team on the history and significance of Juneteenth. It’s also a great way to support people in your local community.
6. Decorate the Workplace
If you’re working in an office, decorate a common area for Juneteenth. You can hang the Juneteenth flag and decorate the office with red, green, and black colors, representing the African diaspora’s unity.
7. Donate to a Cause or Hold a Fundraiser
Juneteenth is a great opportunity to put your money where your mouth is, and—much like supporting Black-owned businesses—donating to organizations devoted to ending racial discrimination and injustice helps. Research organizations that speak to the issues you and your team are most passionate about, hold a fundraiser, or allow the option to make a payroll deduction to make it easier for employees to donate. The ACLU, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI) are great organizations to consider.
8. Make Juneteenth a Paid Holiday
Juneteenth was declared a federal holiday in 2021, but it’s still up to business owners whether it’s a paid holiday. Recognizing Juneteenth in this way acknowledges it as a momentous occasion, especially since it stands for a day when all Americans were truly free for the first time.
9. Encourage Employees to Use the Day Off as a Day On
Just like Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Juneteenth should be a time of reflection and education. Provide a list of ways for employees to spend the day volunteering, participating in local events, visiting museums, or seeing cultural landmarks. If you have employees working in varying locations, here’s a list of African American museums nationwide.
10. Walk the Walk
Most importantly, take this time to look at what you and your team can do internally to combat discrimination. Host an unconscious bias workshop, look at recruiting through historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and start a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion council. Leadership could also look into how they can be better allies to Black employees. Juneteenth is only one day, but it’s vital to prioritize racial equity every day of the year.
These are just some ways to celebrate Juneteenth Independence Day at work, so get together with your team and see if anyone has ideas. Collaborating with coworkers and leaders is essential to meaningfully recognizing this holiday so that it has a lasting and positive impact on your business.