How to talk to your employees about Juneteenth

June 19 should be a day to tell workers what you’ve done—and what needs to be done—to make the company more inclusive

Juneteenth, June 19, marks America’s second Independence Day and for use should emphasize education and achievement. Juneteenth is the nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Although long celebrated in the African American community, this monumental event remains largely unknown to most Americans according to The Museum of African American History and Culture. I learned about Juneteenth as a volunteer at my university radio station, which promoted the Juneteenth celebration on campus. After college, in my corporate sphere, it wasn’t acknowledged…until the summer of 2020. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, many organizations started recognizing the event and some have even made the day a company holiday.

Here in the summer of 2021, we need to expand our commitment to honor significant events like Juneteenth through communications to our employees. . It’s also Pride month in the U.S. Freedom is at the core of both celebrations.

Some volunteer employee groups (Employee Resource Groups or ERGs) are brilliantly partnering to raise the visibility of both populations’ journeys, stories, and experiences. Plus, Pride exists in part thanks to Black and Brown transgender women.

Whatever your organization chooses to do, please raise awareness, provide education, and honor freedom by making Juneteenth a company holiday. Making people come to work and sit through an event about Black history is tone deaf.  By making employees work on a day that is celebrating their freedom, some organizations are not just missing the point but causing harm

Consider these steps to ensure your communications are on point and not just going through the motions:

  • Listen to your Black and African American ERGs and employees to hear what they feel is appropriate, needed, desired and helpful.
  • Give an update on the work you’re doing to support Black and African American employees and communities.
  • Be transparent on what work has been done, what’s in progress and what you’ve planned to do.
  • Take responsibility for what was promised and not done. Own where you are and show the actions you’re taking to level up and contribute to the healing.
  • Be creative about ways to share stories of how people are stepping up to show that this isn’t a moment, it’s a movement centering human dignity, which transcends politics.
  • Be creative about ways to fold into your communications how we can walk through racial reckoning together.
  • Base your communications on how this is an example of the company values in action, improving lives and making a difference

Juneteenth begs us to reflect and improve. My teacher, Deborah L. Johnson says, “feel, deal, heal.” This is another opportunity to sensitize ourselves, opt in, and learn from people’s experiences so we can do better. Be better.

Kim Clark is an affiliate consultant with Ragan Consulting Group. She specializes in diversity and inclusion, culture and internal communications consulting.

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One Comment

  1. Ronald Levy 20th May 2021 at 4:43 pm - Reply

    Ragan’s Crisis Leadership Network offers members an extraordinary “before and after” opportunity to learn.

    Before—now—these exceptionally qualified PR executives can teach how to be exceptionally successful.

    BUT if a Southwest pilot is credibly accused of driving while impaired—or if a PwC manager is accused in our nation’s mass media of marital and legal abuse that enrages a million women and legislators—we may see how the very best people in PR cope with the very worst situations that may afflict almost anyone in PR. “Why didn’t we know about this sooner,” top management may ask PR, “and why did we not protect ourselves better?”

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