By Darla DeGrace, SVP, Head of Client Partnerships – US
“We’re in denial of the African holocaust. Most times, people don’t want to talk about it…We don’t want to sit down and listen to these things, or to discuss them. But we have to.”- Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X
Happy Independence Day, America! No – it is not the fourth of July, it’s Juneteenth – the day Black Americans gather to commemorate the end of slavery and honour the sacrifices of their ancestors.
In 1863, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, an Executive Order to end the enslavement of Black Americans in the 11 confederate states. But it would be two more years before General Granger would travel to Texas, issue a General Order, and inform slaves that indeed “all persons held as slaves…shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free”. The truth is for more than 400 years, freedom has been elusive and structural inequalities continue to plague Black people today.
CEO statements denouncing racism offer a glimmer of Granger-like hope, but Black employees may be reluctant to jump on the C-suite D&I bandwagon without clear actionable steps. Here are five ways to make an impact and honour your Black employees and external stakeholders:
- Observe the Day
Join the growing list of corporations to include Juneteenth to the list of company observed holidays.
- Engage in Dialogue
Hire an external consultant to facilitate a training on slavery, white supremacist work culture, and share tools for practising anti-racist behaviour.
- Education and Awareness
Provide employees with a list of educational resources on the topic of American slavery and challenge employees to relearn US history.
- Stakeholder Communications
Activate your Corporate Communications team to acknowledge Juneteenth both internally and externally and share how your company will honour the day.
- Support and Donate
Prioritise supplier diversity by supporting Black businesses and make a financial contribution to a national or local non-profit organisation committed to the advancement of Black people.
Let’s cure Black History amnesia. America is sick and we need to heal.
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