If you’re looking for ways to celebrate Juneteenth at work, then look no further. Here are some of the best ways to recognize Juneteenth with your work family.
Holidays are synonymous with tradition and can have cultural ties to specific groups of people. The importance of celebrating many holidays is rooted in continuing tradition, honoring cultural practices and the people tied to them. Juneteenth is no different.
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom or Emancipation Day, is an important holiday celebrating the end of slavery. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston, Texas, to notify enslaved people they were officially free and the Civil War had ended. Juneteenth took place two years after the Emancipation Proclamation and was the day that represented liberation for all oppressed people.
Juneteenth is not new to Black communities and has been celebrated since the 1800s. However, it became a federal holiday on June 17, 2021, encouraging many companies to reflect on their workplace culture. In fact, some companies have followed suit, making it a company holiday while offering paid time off.
Celebrating Juneteenth in the workplace is crucial because it recognizes the culture of many employees while respecting the Black experience in the United States. It cultivates a community of understanding and can boost engagement and promote productivity. Lastly, it can tackle racial bias at work and highlight growth areas.
But let’s go beyond paid time off and cover some great ways to celebrate Juneteenth at work. Remember, intentionality is everything!
It’s important to note that celebrating Juneteenth or any holiday that honors specific cultures and historical moments shouldn’t be reserved for one day. Instead, set up common practices and systems that amplify the voices of diverse team members throughout the year.
Besides celebration, Juneteenth is also about paying tribute to those who were enslaved. Because of this, there should be a good mix of education and fun.
Food, dress, and specific activities are an integral part of Juneteenth celebrations. Today, Black Americans continue the traditions of dressing well, cooking particular foods, and engaging in outdoor activities traced back to earlier celebrations.
Let’s focus on the food aspect!
Hosting a lunch and learn is an excellent opportunity for employees to explore the history of Juneteenth while eating good food. Whether it’s an in-person or remote event, kick off your lunch and learn by watching an educational video about Juneteenth. For a more personable experience, you can invite an expert to come and speak at the event or host a Juneteenth panel discussion. This creates open dialogue and allows team members to ask questions, connect, and reflect.
Focus on supporting Black professionals and restaurants to curate a food experience for your team. If you’re remote, purchase gift cards for your squad designated to local Black-owned food options in their area or book experiences through platforms like Adà to bring Black cuisine to your home.
Dinner parties are exciting and offer a unique experience your team will remember. Hire a Black chef to create a menu for your company dinner party. Dinner parties allow for a hands-on experience that enables team members to learn about the diversity in Black food culture. It also allows your team to explore the food’s rich history.
To round out your company dinner party, find a Juneteenth music playlist to complement the experience. This is also an excellent opportunity to consult with your Black Employee Resource Group to see if they have a playlist they would like to include.
Lastly, engage in Juneteenth activities like trivia that offer a fun learning opportunity. The winning team members can receive a prize, or you can provide dinner party bags with products from Black-owned businesses.
As mentioned earlier, Juneteenth celebrations are tied to specific foods. Red foods are a Juneteenth custom that was birthed across the diaspora. The symbolism of red foods represents the bloodshed from enslaved ancestors. Red also symbolizes strength and spirituality in West African culture. It’s essential to ensure that your company is appropriately honoring the traditions of Juneteenth while celebrating.
Hiring experts and seeking food experiences that allow team members to try Juneteenth dishes is a great way for them to learn about Black history. Food experiences like Rituals of Red: A Cooking Class & Exploration of Red Foods in Southern Foodways by Chef Maya allows your team to dive into the deeper meaning behind cultural practices. It also positions your company to be intentional about Juneteenth activities, creating an inclusive environment.
Remember that researching and hiring professionals is critical to successfully honoring cultural holidays. Make it a rule of thumb not to rely on Black employees to implement specific holidays. Instead, focus on cultivating a space where every team member feels seen.
Celebrating diversity in the workplace creates an environment where team members feel comfortable showing up as themselves, giving input, and that their perspective matters. Because a company’s success is rooted in its employees, it’s important to respect who they are and what’s important to them. Celebrating Juneteenth is a start.
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