Juneteenth is a new federal holiday in the United States commemorating the end of slavery. Most U.S. states and several major cities already observe Juneteenth as a holiday. However, President Biden signed legislation into law Thursday to make Juneteenth, or June 19, the 12th federal holiday.
June 19 commemorates the day in 1865 when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas — two months after the Confederacy had surrendered and about 2½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed enslaved people in the Southern states.
Like every year, when celebrating federal holidays, small businesses can plan various marketing activities, including:
- Ad campaigns centered on Juneteenth
Juneteenth can be a great occasion to offer deals, discounts, online coupons, and promo codes to consumers. You can even offer value-added services to attract more sales.
Yet, as many companies grapple with ways to show tangible support for black employees and celebrate racial diversity, here are some additional and impactful ways brands can observe Juneteenth in the workplace and beyond.
1. Institute a no mandatory meetings day
In 2020, Google announced its implementation of a “no mandatory meetings day,” to encourage all Googlers to use the time to learn and reflect on the meaning of Juneteenth. In the days leading up to Juneteenth, every small business can implement a similar celebration.
Traditionally, a no-meeting day is a day for focused work. However, what better way to celebrate Juneteenth than to designate a day of reflection?
No-meeting days are not a new concept. Companies like Facebook and Asana use no-meeting days to help cut down on unproductive meetings and give employees back their time to focus on doing actual work that needs to get done. Celebrating Juneteenth is a great way to add meaning to a no-meeting day.
2. Launch a fellowship program with HBCUs
In 2020, Vox Media Inc. announced their intent to observe Juneteenth as a company holiday. The media company also launched a fellowship program with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Small businesses can sponsor their own fellowship program by offering short-term opportunities (from a few months to several years) to focus on the professional development of high-achieving undergraduate and graduate fellows at HBCUs.
The goal is to cultivate emerging leaders and changemakers at HBCUs by allowing students to explore fellowships for experiential learning, training and professional development opportunities.
A Juneteenth inspired fellowship program can support a range of activities including research to advance work on a particular issue, developing a new community-based initiative, training and reflection to support the fellow’s growth, and opportunities to further explore a particular field of work in your industry.
3. Pledge financial support to organizations that address racial inequality
Tech companies, such as Cisco Systems Inc., Alphabet Inc., Uber Technologies Inc. and Intel Corp. , have already pledged millions of dollars in donations to organizations such as the Equal Justice Initiative, the Black Lives Matter Foundation and the NAACP. Similarly, tobacco products maker Altria Group Inc. announced a $5 million donation to support national and local organizations that address racial inequality. While your donations need not be in the millions, every dollar of support counts.
4. Hold a virtual panel talk or fireside chat
Another good idea is to host an online panel to recognize the historic day through a conference call, fireside chat, or town hall, which you can share on your social media platforms.
Invite several experts to lead a discussion on:
- The importance of Juneteenth
- What will lead to concrete changes in the industry and society
- How actions taken on this day can be a catalyst for sustainable change
Another apt way to celebrate Juneteenth is by posting a brand message from the founder and CEO on your company website and social media, celebrating the spirit of Juneteenth and what it means as you explore racial and ethnic diversity in employment and leadership ranks.
5. Include charitable donations in your business model
This week, Google announced $50 million in grants for HBCUs. The money is headed to 10 historically black colleges and universities to help support scholarships, invest in infrastructure, and develop curriculum.
In a similar vein, small business owners can bestow grants to deserving African American students to obtain a higher education at a local college or university.
Small businesses can also give back by donating a portion of sales in the week leading up to Juneteenth. If you plan to include charitable donations in your business model choose an organization that aligns with your core values and engage your stakeholders (i.e., employees, executives, customers, suppliers, investors, and community leaders). Ask them what’s most important in how you do business together.
Another great way to celebrate Juneteenth is to implement a strategic giving program. Cash is still king, but maximizing resources equals smart giving. For example, match your employees’ interests or skill set to a charitable organization’s needs; donate products/services to the community; collaborate with business partners to create a new charitable giving initiative, and reach out to customers to raise funds and awareness for Juneteenth.
Lastly, don’t forget to share your Juneteenth philanthropic efforts with the local community. Tell the story about how you’re helping your local community embrace racial and ethnic diversity.
One of the basic tenets of America’s philosophy as a nation is equality across race and skin color. This country is a melting pot of people from various racial backgrounds and the federal government, as well as private companies and organizations, are leaving no stone unturned to promote cultural diversity and peaceful co-existence.
Although Juneteenth has officially been proclaimed a federal holiday, it is important to note that this celebration does not eliminate the need for continued efforts in racial justice and equality. Become an ally and show continued support by championing black-owned businesses and organizations, embarking upon self-education and sharing what you’ve learned with others.
“Struggle is a never ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation.” — Coretta Scott King
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