Groups Celebrate and Commemorate Juneteenth

Associations and other nonprofits are helping to honor Juneteenth—the new federal holiday that recognizes the end of slavery in the United States—with everything from DEI-focused career fairs to digital exhibits that explain its significance.

Juneteenth, the newest federal holiday, commemorates the final freeing of slaves June 19, 1865—two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

Because the new federal holiday legislation was signed into law so close to the official celebration last year, many organizations did not have an opportunity to recognize the holiday in 2021.

However, with plenty of time to plan this year, associations and other nonprofits are honoring Juneteenth in myriad ways. Here’s a look at how a handful are commemorating the occasion:

The Juneteenth Foundation has been celebrating Juneteenth with a four-day Freedom Festival June 16-19. The festival includes an honors gala; golf tournament; block party; and a diversity, equity, and inclusion discussion combined with a career fair. “More people than ever want to work for employers with a proven dedication to DE&I, so our aim is to facilitate the matching on a historic scale,” said Laquan Austion, CEO and cofounder of The Juneteenth Foundation. “The fair will connect job seekers directly with companies committed to attracting diverse talent and will also enable companies to showcase their efforts toward building a sustainably inclusive environment, so job seekers can have confidence their voices will be valued.”

Because Juneteenth is a relatively new holiday for many Americans, the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership is helping people with suggestions for how to celebrate. For instance, IFEL is encouraging people [pdf] to make the most of the holiday by patronizing Black businesses. “Juneteenth is a missed opportunity if it just becomes another day off,” says IFEL CEO and cofounder Jill Johnson. “Companies and individuals who truly value DEI should use this as an opportunity to commit to action that leads to economic freedom and inclusion for people who have been historically excluded. More individual action by more individual people leads to systemic change.”

The Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers held its inaugural Juneteenth celebration on June 16. The virtual event featured a keynote presentation by Inclusive Strategies CEO Waleska Lugo-DeJesus, which focused on addressing difficult conversations at the workplace.

The Brewers Association created a guide to help its members observe Juneteenth. With recent backlash over the corporatization of Juneteenth, BA’s guide reminds members to “hit the right tone,” and “remain respectful of the complex legacy of slavery and its impact.” It also encourages members to invite their local community to be involved with the celebrations.

The African American Business Association and the Joliet Chamber of Commerce will host a Juneteenth Gala, which will honor local CEOs “who demonstrate courage and perseverance in business while being a leader” in the community.

The State Historical Society of Missouri is sharing its commemoration of Juneteenth online, with a “digital interactive, Emancipation Day in the Missouri Ozarks” exhibit [PDF]. The online display examines the significance of Juneteenth and other ways that freedom was celebrated by Black people in Missouri. “Our interactive map documents the evolution of emancipation gatherings in Missouri,” said Sean Rost, oral historian and project lead. “We hope people will engage with this map, not only to understand the origins of the federal holiday of Juneteenth but also how Missourians have commemorated emancipation throughout the Ozarks.”

Founded in 1994, the Delaware Juneteenth Association, will continue its history of celebrating the holiday. It has hosted a series of events this month in relation to Juneteenth and will continue to do so. Upcoming are the Juneteenth observance celebration on June 19, a festival on June 20, and pageant and talent show June 26 and 29.

(filo/DigitalVision Vectors)

Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

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