Bellese believes recognizing Juneteenth in the workplace can strengthen a company’s commitments to its mission, vision, and values to promote a diverse and inclusive workplace and to foster social and racial justice. The first initiative Bellese made was to make the announcement in 2020 that they will make Juneteenth an annual corporate holiday. The decision to observe Juneteenth in the workplace comes as more employers voice their support for racial justice. Currently, various efforts are being reviewed and discussed by the leadership team at Bellese.
Juneteenth, an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, has been celebrated by African Americans since the late 1800s. In recent years, and particularly following nationwide protests over police brutality and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other Black Americans, there is a renewed interest in the day that celebrates freedom. The celebration continues to resonate in new ways, given the sweeping changes and widespread protests across the U.S. over the last year.
What is Juneteenth?
On June 19, 1865, about two months after the Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Va., Gordon Granger, a Union general, arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. General Granger’s announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued more than two and a half years earlier on Jan. 1, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln.
The holiday received its name by combining June and 19. The day is also sometimes called “Juneteenth Independence Day,” “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day.”
How is it celebrated?
The day was celebrated by praying and bringing families together. In some celebrations on this day, men and women who had been enslaved, and their descendants, made an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston.
Celebrations reached new heights in 1872 when a group of African American ministers and businessmen in Houston purchased 10 acres of land and created Emancipation Park. The space was intended to hold the city’s annual Juneteenth celebration. Today, while some celebrations take place among families in backyards where food is an integral element, some cities, like Atlanta and Washington, hold larger events, like parades and festivals with residents, local businesses and more.
What can you and/or your family do to celebrate Juneteenth?
- Plan a special meal and gather the family together to acknowledge Juneteenth. Decorate your table and door with a Juneteenth theme and discuss what the celebration means today. Emphasize the mandates of responsibility and striving to be the best you can be. Make specific pledges for the remainder of the year and ask for support in accomplishing your goals.
- Encourage your neighborhood to display Juneteenth yard signs.
- Did you know there is a Juneteenth flag? Read up on the flag's history.
- Plan a special gathering with friends to acknowledge Juneteenth. Exchange facts or quotes from history. Discern how certain significant and historical events have impacted your life today. Make it a point to thank those who have helped open doors for you to achieve.
- Take some personal time to reflect... then look forward. Make a wish. Make a plan. Write it down.
Further reading: Cliff Robinson, “How To Celebrate Juneteenth”, https://www.juneteenth.com
Last year, Bellese team members overwhelmingly voted to add Juneteenth as a company holiday. Congress this week moved to formally recognize Juneteenth as a federal holiday, sending the bill on Wednesday evening to President Biden for enactment. As of yesterday (Thursday, June 17th), Juneteenth is officially a Federal Holiday.