What is your company doing to celebrate Juneteenth? Read on to learn more about America’s newest federal holiday, plus advice on how to make this special day a cornerstone of your diversity and inclusion initiatives.

The period of social unrest in the United States following the murder of George Floyd in 2020 brought renewed focus to the issues of racism and injustice across the country. Conversations about equal treatment and the importance of diversity began to take place at home, at school and in the workplace. As companies worked to find ways to ensure their Black employees felt valued, included and respected, one idea routinely bubbled to the surface — celebrating Juneteenth.

But what exactly is Juneteenth? And how can companies commemorate it in a respectful, inclusive way? Read on for tips about how to celebrate Juneteenth.

what is Juneteenth?

Sometimes referred to as African-American Independence Day, Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to ensure all enslaved people there were freed. That was a full two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln ended slavery in the United States with the Emancipation Proclamation. Thirty presidents later, Joe Biden made the day a federal holiday in 2021.

some Juneteenth celebration ideas at work

While it might be tempting to jump headfirst into planning a Juneteenth celebration, it’s important to go about things with a cautious — and respectful — eye.

It goes without saying that you should include African-American employees in any planning discussions and get their input on how to celebrate Juneteenth. Having their voices at the table is vital to ensure a sensitive and meaningful commemoration — and to avoid any potential missteps.

Here are a few things to consider when planning a celebration:

  • Focus on education and knowledge sharing — For most organizations (81 percent according to our survey) that mark Juneteenth, the celebrations begin and end with giving workers the day off. But if you’re serious about diversity and inclusion, Juneteenth is the perfect opportunity to raise consciousness about issues that have resonated in American history and culture for almost two centuries — and, many say, since 1619. Plan ahead for some educational programming or develop some resources, such as blog posts or short videos, highlighting the significance of the day and explaining how it’s celebrated with things like red food.
  • Continue promoting diversity and inclusion — This may be the most authentic way to mark the day, as it speaks to the importance of what the holiday actually represents. It’s easy to make statements in support of diversity and equal treatment, but truly putting those words into action speaks volumes. Try planning for small employee workshops or manager-led conversations about diversity and consider allowing employees to share their perspectives on corporate blogs or social media accounts.
  • Make it a holiday — A recent Randstad survey found that 44 percent of workers get a day off for Juneteenth, marking an 11 percent increase over 2021. However, for half of workers (51%), it’s not paid time off. While it may be too late to change plans this year, consider announcing soon that you’ll be making Juneteenth a holiday (paid or otherwise) next time around. It’s a simple gesture that can pay dividends in terms of employee engagement and your company’s brand.

Juneteenth is now a pivotal day in the American calendar. But if you want to put inclusion and belonging at the heart of your organizational culture, you’ll need to focus on those themes year-round. For more ideas on how to promote EDI&A in the workplace, see what we’re doing at Randstad.