Remembrance, Reflection, And Celebration: How To Celebrate Juneteenth At Work In 2023
The USA has its own list of unique holidays and celebrations, and Juneteenth is one of a kind in that list. After getting recognized as a federal holiday in 2021, more companies are incorporating Juneteenth into their DEI initiatives. However, finding activities that answer how to celebrate juneteenth at work is tricky.
Just like any other celebration, this day calls for a commemoration. And well, you definitely want to celebrate Juneteenth in a way that is memorable, honorable, and at the same time, fun. After all, it honors the social justice and equalitythat this historic day represents.
So let's dive deeper to understand the significance of Juneteenth, its history, and its cultural importance to find ways to celebrate Juneteenth at work with purpose and relevance.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth (short form of June Nineteenth) is a pivotal event in American history. It celebrates the day when the Union Troops finally freed the last group of enslaved Africans in 1865. It thus marks the emancipation of more than 250,000 enslaved Black Americans.
Today, it stands for African Americans' liberation, resilience, and excellence. It's a day to celebrate the freedom and strength of a community that has fought and overcome years of exploitation.
But it's not just about honoring and celebrating the African American community (although that's a big part of it, of course). It's also an opportunity to promote awareness and respect for the diverse culture of America as a whole.
Thus, by recognizing the significance of Juneteenth in your organization, you can create a more inclusive work culture that celebrates and values employees, regardless of their diverse backgrounds.
How to celebrate juneteenth at work?
Food, music, games, dance, and fireworks- all have been part of the traditional Juneteenth celebration. However, there's no one way to celebrate this Emancipation day.
While companies like Target, Nike, Netflix, and Twitter offer their employees a paid day off on Juneteenth. Some other companies choose to celebrate this day with awareness and learning. They attempt to honor the sacrifice of millions of enslaved African Americans and celebrate their emancipation.
Let's dive in and discover how to celebrate Juneteenth respectfully to honor and recognize the contributions of Black Americans in the workplace and beyond-
1. Send your employees an informative email
Juneteenth is still not widely known or celebrated in many parts of the United States. A recent BBC survey says that only 41% of American workers were aware of the history of Juneteenth before 2020.
So, this Juneteenth, why not take a small initiative from your side to educate the team about its significance? All the while giving them a reason to celebrate.
Step 1: Start with your own research and educate yourself on the History of Juneteenth.
To make your job a little easier, I have taken care of the research part and compiled a list of resources-
- Juneteenth: The History of a Holiday- By New York Times
- The Historical Legacy of Juneteenth - By the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture
- How to Keep Juneteenth Alive All Year Round -By American historian and Harvard professor Annette Gordon-Reed
- 13th - a documentary by Netflix.
Step 2: Share your learnings and write a Juneteenth message to employees. Educate them about the historical significance of the event and why it is important to celebrate it in the workplace.
To make your message more effective, keep the email short, simple, and crisp.
Step 3: Fully utilize this opportunity to highlight the unique experience of Black Americans and honor their struggle. Attach some additional resources in the email to help your people do their own research. You can also add a few stories of sacrifice and wins with your people.
You will definitely make your employees feel good if you lead the way with such gestures of empathy.
Be Sensitive in your messaging and celebration around the event. The history of Juneteenth can be deeply painful for many members of the Black American community.
2. Host a philanthropy event with employees.
How about hosting a philanthropy event with your employees this Juneteenth?
It could be a great initiative to give back to the community and support a charitable cause. Simultaneously, promoting a culture of corporate social responsibility.
A philanthropy event doesn't necessarily have to be about employees donating money from their pockets. Instead, be creative and come up with some awesome ideas that everyone can get involved in!
Here are a few activities to guide you on how to celebrate juneteenth at work with the community and for the community.
Volunteer work with an NGO:
Organize a volunteer day with a local organization or NGO that works on issues related to racial justice, equity, and equality. This can include activities such as:
- Painting a community center
- Planting a community garden
- Serving food at a local shelter
- Donating clothes to the needy.
- And other such activities
Organize a fundraising event and donate the sum to shelter homes, organizations fighting racial injustice, or other such causes.
To raise funds, your organization can organize different activities. Such as-
- A charity walk
- A donation drive
- A virtual auction
- Sports tournaments
- Talent hunts
Organize education and awareness activities:
Invite a speaker or select a team from your employees to host an awareness program or workshop to educate the local communities. The topic can be anything related to social justice and equality.
Here are some topic ideas for a Juneteenth awareness campaign-
- Police reforms
- The fight for Civil Rights
- Allyship, advocacy, and inclusion
- The history of Juneteenth
- Celebrating Black Culture
- Systemic racism
- Stories of Black resistance, resilience, and liberation.
You can also let employees have creative freedom. Let them come up with their own ideas for giving back to the community. You can either set up a company-wide initiative based on their ideas. Or choose to support employee-led activities.
Participating in such activities will make your teams feel like they're making a difference. It will provide them with a sense of purpose and unity that can positively impact their morale and satisfaction.
Whether it's a charity walk, a speaker series on racial justice, or a Juneteenth festival, there are plenty of ways to make a positive impact while having fun with your team.
3. Incorporate the colors of Juneteenth.
Add the colors of Juneteenth to your celebration. By incorporating the colors, you can recognize, honor, and celebrate the rich history of African Americans and their struggles and contributions to the United States.
The colors of the Juneteenth flag- red, white, and blue - have symbolic meaning that reflects the history of the holiday.
The red color of the Juneteenth flag represents the blood and sacrifice of enslaved Africans and their struggle for freedom. White symbolizes hope, purity, and a new beginning of a life without slavery. Blue represents perseverance, determination, and resilience in the face of oppression.
Here are a few ways to brighten up your workplace through the vibrant hues of Juneteenth-
Decorate the office space with Juneteenth-themed decorations, such as balloons, streamers, and flags that feature these colors. Organizing live Juneteenth-themed music, food, and drinks can help you further alleviate the atmosphere of celebration in the office.
Encourage your colleagues to wear clothes or accessories that feature the Juneteenth colors.
If you have African American employees in your workplace, why not take it to the next level? Suggest employees wear traditional African clothing or patterns.
Gift your people Juneteenth-themed badges, t-shirts, scarfs, caps, mugs, desk accessories, and books by Black authors about Black experiences.
4. Play "Did You Know?"
"Did you know?" game or Juneteenth trivia is a great way to engage your teams in learning about the history of Juneteenth.
At the same time, you will get to celebrate emancipation day while promoting awareness. It will encourage your employees to become more involved in advocating social justice and equality.
Trivias also work great in Hybrid and remote teams. To make it easy for you, here's a step-by-step guide for you to organize an online Trivia-
Step 1: Choose a time, format, and medium:
Choose a date and time, considering the different time zones that work.
Decide if you want to host the game live or pre-recorded.
Decide if it will be a team-based game or if employees will participate individually.
Choose the platform where you will host the session. Some options include Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet. You can also go for a dedicated trivia platform like Kahoot or Quizlet.
Step 2: Select the trivia questions:
Make a list of trivia questions you want to include in the game.
Here are a few examples for you:
- Juneteenth is also called___.
- Which was the first state to declare Juneteenth as a state holiday?
- When was Juneteenth declared as a federal holiday?
Step 3: Conduct the session:
Explain the rules of the game and start the trivia. Keep track of the scores, and announce the winner(s) at the end of the event.
Make sure to send out the invitations beforehand.
Step 4: End the session with a Thank you note:
After the event, send out a follow-up email thanking everyone for participating and including any relevant information, such as the scores, winners, and photos from the event.
To spice things up, you can anounce non-monetary prizes for the winners, like extra WFH days or a floating day off.
Consider creating a Juneteenth bulletin board with fun facts and information about the holiday. To make it more visually appealing, you can include images, such as pictures of the Juneteenth flag, photos of historical events related to the holiday, or artwork by Black artists.
5. Take the team out
Your Juneteenth celebration at work doesn't have to be restricted to the office threshold. Why not take the team outside to make the celebration memorable?
Here are some outdoor activities and ways to celebrate juneteenth at work-
Cultural center or museum:
Take your employees to a museum to help them understand the systematic racism and oppression Black Americans have suffered. Places like the National Museum of African American History & Culture, Washington DC, store the past, present, and future of Black experiences.
Your employees will also get familiar with (if not already) a global collection of works from Black artists from different parts of the world, Black culture including arts, sports, medicine, the Civil Rights movement, and more.
Attend a local Juneteenth festival.
Many places and communities in the US celebrate Juneteenth every year. Dedicate a few hours of Freedom day to join local events with your people. Experiencing African American culture through music, food, and activities of these local events can be a fun and engaging experience for employees.
Attending a Juneteenth parade or festival with your employees can also work to strengthen your organization's connection with local communities. It can also display your commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
6. Themed Lunch or cook-off
Wondering how to celebrate juneteenth at work in a fun and meaningful way?
Organize a Juneteenth-themed lunch or cook-off. If your budget is on the higher end, you can choose to host a Juneteenth-themed picnic at a local park or outdoor space.
Here are a few ideas you can try-
- You can consider serving traditional food items associated with Juneteenth. Some Juneteenth-inspired dishes are- red beverages and food items like hibiscus tea, red velvet cake, watermelon, strawberry, blueberry pies, or any red sauce-covered meat.
African-born communities like Yoruba and Kongo were living in Texas, the birthplace of Juneteenth. These communities associated the color red with transition, sacrifice, and power. Juneteenth celebrations embodied this African tradition through food. That is why we see a lot of red foods as part of the traditional foods of Juneteenth.
You can also bring African American culinary traditions to the office with dishes like collard greens, sweet potato pie, black-eyed peas, and others.
If you are getting the food catered, make sure to partner with a Black-owned business.
Set the mood by incorporating traditional African American tunes.
Complete your celebration with decorations that celebrate African American culture.
7. Experience Junteenth through films.
Set up a projector in the office and screen a movie highlighting African American experiences and contributions. Enhance the experience with some Juneteenth-themed snacks and drinks. Or arrange a barbecue and eat together in honor of Juneteenth.
For remote and hybrid teams, host the session online. You can also encourage employees to invite friends and family to join the virtual Juneteenth celebration.
Here are some Juneteenth movies and document options to watch-
- Hidden Figures
- The Color Purple
- Miss Juneteenth
- High on the Hog
- Civil War (Or, Who Do We Think We Are)
- Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America
- Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer
- Summer of Soul
Take a step further and educate your your clients and customers on the significance of Juneteenth. Highlight its history and related stories in your company newsletter or social media platforms.
Also, make sure to post about your Juneteenth celebrations on social media. This will help you spread awareness about Juneteenth among a larger audience. At the same time, help your audience get a look at the culture of diversity and inclusion at your organization.
You can even create a social media hashtag related to your Juneteenth celebration. Also, make sure to encourage employees to share their thoughts and photos on social media.
To wrap it up:
If you plan on celebrating Juneteenth in the office, ensure everyone feels included! Encourage your employees to participate and get involved, regardless of their race and color. Also, encourage them to share their thoughts and reflections on the holiday.
But don't stop there!
Just because Juneteenth is over, that doesn't mean you should forget all about D&I. Keep up the good work by ensuring your workplace is diverse and inclusive all year round.
Remember, promoting equality isn't a one-and-done deal. It's a constant effort that requires ongoing measures. So let's walk the talk and keep the conversation going!
1. Why is it important to honor Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is a time to celebrate the end of a dark chapter in our history - slavery. Thus, it's important to honor Juneteenth and acknowledge Black Americans' struggle for justice. It's a way to promote awareness and understanding of the impact of slavery and racism on American society. Simply put, it's a step towards creating a more equitable and just future.
2. How to celebrate juneteenth virtually at work?
You can tweak almost all the mentioned activities above to make them appropriate for a virtual team. For instance, a virtual fundraising event, virtual online Juneteenth trivia, Virtual juneteenth scavenger hunt, and others.
3. What do you say to employees on Juneteenth?
On Juneteenth, update your employees on the progress made so far in your organization to support employees of color. Highlight stories of the company's inclusive values in action. Also, be transparent about the initiatives in progress and what you've planned to do.
4. What games to play for Juneteenth?
Apart from the abovementioned ones, you can organize a few other games to celebrate Juneteenth at work. They are Twister, Uno, Connect 4, double Dutch, and dominoes. You can also organize a painting game where employees paint t-shirts (or any canvas) in the colors of Juneteenth.