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Juneteenth (a combination of the words “June” and “Nineteenth”) commemorates the freedom of enslaved people in America. Also called “Emancipation Day” or “Freedom Day,” this day in 1865 is when Union Troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas, to announce that the more than 250,000 enslaved people there were freed. This announcement arrived two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln made the executive decree. 

Juneteenth was declared a federal holiday in 2021. Companies should use this day not simply as a day off, but as a time to make meaningful progress toward equity for the Black community. In addition to a day off, or sharing a social media post, ask this one question to understand what you can do to make meaningful progress toward racial equity:

“What steps can your company take toward creating equity for Black communities?”

If you’re not sure where to start, think through the ways that your company can meaningfully move the needle toward progress for employees. Consider these ideas:

For employees:

  1. If you have not conducted a pay equity assessment to understand whether there are gaps in pay for your employees by race, start there. 
  2. Consider the growth path for your Black employees and examine promotion equity to determine whether there is racial inequity in your promotion process. Also, look at who utilizes employee leadership and development options, who has mentors, and who has vocal sponsors in your organization. That will help provide insight into what groups may be more set up for success than others. 
  3. Conduct a survey and (if possible) disaggregate it by race to locate gaps in experience of Black employees and take feedback and comments seriously. Often, feedback by Black employees is explained away or dismissed, and when another survey is conducted, Black employees are less motivated to share honest feedback, since no action was taken the first time. 
  4. Ensure that your Black Employee Resource Group (ERGs) receives resources for their programs, executive leadership engagement for their initiatives, and recognition for their additional voluntary contributions to the organization. This is additional labor they provide to the organization to support the culture and should be recognized, especially, if the organization uses ERGs to attract prospective talent, partners, or customers. 
  5. Consider how you leverage your Black employee experience and expertise to inform your business strategy. When looking for improvements, new ideas, or innovation for products and services, don’t forget that your Black employees can offer great insight into the Black consumer experience – and may result in new markets/revenue sources. Be sure to reward and provide visibility of their contributions across the organization and to executive leadership. 

It’s important to also think about how your business serves Black consumers and impacts Black communities externally. Consider these questions as a starting point to your exploration into Black equity this month:

  1. Are your products or services accessible to Black customers? Where are your physical office or store locations and what are the demographics of those communities? Do those communities reflect the employees in those offices?
  2. Do you include Black customers in user testing and collect feedback to incorporate the Black experience and voice as you improve and create new products and services?
  3. How does your company give back to the community? Does your organization contribute philanthropically to the Black community?
  4. Does your business harm Black communities by contributing to pollution, food deserts, health disparity, gentrification, predatory sales tactics, or inequity in access to capital? Can your company use its corporate power mitigate these social practices?
  5. How do you use consumer data about Black consumer behavior? With consumer data being an increasingly powerful way to monitor behavior and market products, it’s important to take an ethical stance to eliminate harmful retargeting marketing tactics. 

Juneteenth is not just another day off. It is a time to look at how your workplace and consumers treat Black people and ensure that you are taking meaningful steps toward progress. Make sure that when we get to Juneteenth 2025, you can look back and recount observable and measurable steps you have taken the previous year to make a positive impact and reduce harm. 

Our members can learn more about racial equity here.

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The Editor

Ngozi Okeh is an experienced leader with a history of driving efforts to conceptualize, define, assess and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) as strategic business processes. Ngozi is currently the Director of DEI at a leading marketing technology company where she develops and executes enterprise-wide DEI initiatives through rigorous strategic planning efforts, community partnerships, leadership collaboration, strategy evaluation, and careful management of communication and buy-in as well as policies and procedures.  Previously, she worked at an independent mortgage bank, where… View Profile