A year ago, George Floyd’s unjust death sparked one of the most stirring social justice movements in American history. And today, the fruits of its labor have begun to bloom. On June 17, 2021, President Biden signed a bill that made Juneteenth — the commemoration of the end of slavery in America — a national holiday.
As the consciousness of racial injustice rises, it’s crucial that we take advantage of this momentum to echo the stories of our black brothers and sisters to as many people as possible. That’s why we teamed up with ThinkHuman and 15Five to host a webinar about the black experience and how we can show up for black employees in June and beyond.
Here are answers to four of the most insightful questions from the event. We are so grateful to each and every panelist for joining and helping to drive this meaningful discussion.
1. What does Juneteenth acknowledge to you?
“It acknowledges that we as black people are human beings. This was something that came up last week when we had one of our calls and we were talking about how companies like to say, ‘Oh yeah there’s got to be a business case for these efforts.’ Oh really? There’s got to be a business case for a human issue? There’s got to be a business case for blackness? There’s got to be a business case for my existence? When you think about it from that lens, you should really just flip that conversation on its head. Doing right by humanity means acknowledging the rich history of what has happened and what has occurred, however painful it is.” — Robert Gordon IV, Business Development at Flockjay
“We’re not just doing this for black people. Our white counterparts have to understand that this is also important to them because this is a part of their history. This isn’t just black history. There were certain things that your ancestors did or didn’t do that contributed to this very day. Recognize that. We have to embrace certain things that we love and hate. We may feel ashamed of our history. But what this helps us do is move the needle. And I’m not just talking about black people’s issues but issues with white people’s history as well. Let’s do the work. It takes both of us to do it.”
— Hakemia Jackson, ThinkHuman
2. How do you equip our White, Latin, and Asian brothers and sisters with the weapons to speak on our behalf?
“Accept your own privilege. As a white person, you have privilege. And if you are deeply curious, the first step is just accepting the fact that you have that privilege and that you’re not going to be right all the time. You might make some mistakes, but if you’re leading with empathy and genuine curiosity, that’s a great initial step.” — Robert Gordon IV, Business Development at Flockjay
“The reality is that sometimes we just don’t want to make a 100% commitment. I was reminded yesterday that it was the one-year anniversary of everyone posting those black squares on Instagram. At least 80 of my friends posted that black square. Black, White, Latino, Asian, etcetera. But my question is what’s been done in the last year on your end? What have you done since then to show solidarity, action, and support for the community? That alone is one big question to really look at internally and understand if I’m just being performative or if I actually want to celebrate and support this community.”
— Aaron Crutison, Technical Recruiter at Loom
3. What does it look like to truly stand in solidarity with your black talent?
“Set me up to thrive. Give me the coaching. Give me everything that I need. Acknowledge that I might not have had access to the networks that some of my colleagues might have had access to. Acknowledge that I might need additional support. That’s what equity is — the redistribution of resources. Don’t simply bring me in and then right when I’m floundering blame it on me. No, you set me up. You brought me into a situation where you’ve done no work to make the environment inclusive. You’ve done no work to make it equitable. And as a result, I am not thriving here.” — Francesca Walker, Instructional Designer & Facilitator at ThinkHuman
“Allowing space for healing, community, and celebration. Dismantling internal structures that have historically been intentional in holding black brilliant talent back from advancement. Checking your privilege at the door. Allowing us to exist.”
— Robert Gordon IV, Business Development at Flockjay
4. If an organization wants to establish Juneteenth as a holiday, how should they go about that?
“Start having conversations with your black team members. Part of taking this step is having those uncomfortable conversations internally and checking yourself at the door both from the perspective of leadership and the perspective of the thesis for your company. Just diving headfirst into those uncomfortable conversations and making sure that you’re just being extremely intentional around the why. Extremely intentional around the support. And extremely intentional around forward momentum in progress.” — Aaron Crutison II, Technical Recruiter at Loom
“Speaking to the why and intentionality of celebrating Juneteenth, one thing that’s really important is that when you’re rolling this out, it’s not simply that everyone just takes the day off. You need to acknowledge that there is work to be done here and there are some of us in this country and in this organization that still have work to do. Consider attending workshops where you can explore these systemic issues and the ways in which racism is at the root of it all. Take the day to reflect and get the education that you need. Don’t just take the day off.”
– Francesca Walker, Instructional Designer & Facilitator at ThinkHuman
Watch the full Juneteenth webinar
Ready to further your understanding of how to create space for Juneteenth and beyond?
Learn more about Flockjay’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging here.