Celebration, Education, and Accountability on Juneteenth

Juneteenth is recognized as a pivotal day in the history of the United States. While the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect nationally in 1863, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865, that slavery was abolished in Galveston, Texas. Juneteenth, alternatively referred to as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, and Liberation or Emancipation Day, now commemorates the official end of slavery in our country. It allows for the celebration of freedom and progress, while prompting reflection on historical challenges and institutions that continue to perpetuate racial violence and discrimination today.

Progress towards a more equitable future can begin when we center Black LGBTQ+ individuals, experiences, and histories in our collective advocacy. In recognizing Juneteenth, we stand against information injustice — the disproportionate distribution and access to information and resources across communities. By deepening our understanding of the systemic oppression faced by Black and marginalized communities, we become better equipped to push for larger workplace and societal change.

Revisiting: Courageous Conversations on Race Equity

In recognition of Juneteenth and its new designation as a federal holiday, we are revisiting our racial equity programming to frame the intersection of LGBTQ+ equality and racial justice in a more historical context.

If you’re looking to take the next step in your advocacy, start here. Educate yourself and hold others accountable. Transition away from circular conversations about racial inequities and make a commitment to develop or influence impactful inclusion policies.

This video includes clips from PIOW’s 2020 Racial Equity Programming. Featured panelists include Gary Bailey and Jonathan Allen. Gary Bailey (he/him) is a Professor of Practice at Simmons College and Jonathan Allen (he/him) is the Co-Founder and Director of Philanthropy and Partnerships at Leadership Brainery. Since recording this panel, Jonathan has joined PIOW’s Board of Directors. We are grateful for their perspectives and thank them for sharing their stories with us.

This Juneteenth, we encourage you to celebrate the progress we have made while acknowledging the racial equity work that still needs to be done. See below for actionable steps you can take to educate colleagues and promote accountability in your own organization.

For Companies and Organizations:
Companies and organizations have the visibility and resources needed to facilitate change in our society. By supporting racial justice initiatives, you can shift public discourse while building a more equitable environment for your employees internally. Make proactive choices to incorporate education on race into your leadership development processes. Invest financial and social capital in the uplift of Black communities, creating career pipelines for Black students and professionals. Prioritize the recruitment of Black talent and track retention data. Learn the difference between dialogue and debate, and listen to those highlighting the need for change within your organization. Intentionality is key in fostering a supportive environment where all employees can thrive.

Acknowledge Juneteenth (June 19) as a paid holiday. Pair any public statements or internal emails about Juneteenth with insight into how your organization’s strategy aligns with key priorities of the Black and African American communities. Consider selecting Juneteenth as an annual day of accountability, during which you measure the progress of your team’s diversity initiatives or organize opportunities for employees to continue their education and volunteer within the community. 

For Employees: 
Driving noticeable change within your organization requires both grassroots momentum and senior leadership support. Organize your peers through the creation of an employee resource group or leverage your existing ERG’s executive sponsor to gain credibility, visibility, and access to decision-makers within your company. Identify allies on your team and tell them how and when they can support your goals. Collect numerical data and employee surveys to create trackable outcomes that you can present to leadership. Combine this data with elements of educational storytelling to make a more compelling case for the development of programming or broader inclusion policy. If additional support is required, connect with organizations or consultants specializing in diversity, equity, and inclusion to help communicate your needs to your employer.

Our Commitment: 
We stand as a board and an organization for freedom, racial equality, and justice and against racism. We are committed to continually amplifying Black LGBTQ+ perspectives in our programming and resource creation. We will challenge ourselves to center intersectionality at the forefront of our work to ensure that our organization is reflective of the community it serves and seeks to represent.

We would like to thank the following PIOW Board Members for their contributions to this piece: Bryan Vermes, Karen Young, John Basile, Jonathan Allen, Matt McTygue, Tori Kaufmann-Paulman, and Wendell K. Chestnut.

If there are topics you would like to see us cover in the future or if you have any feedback to offer our organization, please reach out to info@piow.org. 

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