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The Corporate Conversation on Juneteenth

Updated: Jul 5, 2020

By now, your company has likely made a statement supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

You may have also committed to supporting a non-profit that fights injustice or promotes Black achievement. You’ve probably had the internal corporate conversation about how your company can ensure equal opportunity in your hiring, procurement  and advancement practices. You’ve continued to educate yourself over the past few weeks by reading articles and books about the Black experience in America. You may have even had necessary but uncomfortable conversations with Black friends and colleagues. And now there’s the question of whether your firm should honor Juneteenth as a holiday. 

We decided "yes” — though our rationale may surprise you. Our “yes” was not because we’re an African American-owned firm. It was not because we believe June 19, 1865, is the ideal date for commemorating emancipation from slavery. After all on this date, slaves in Texas learned of their emancipation – an emancipation that had officially occurred two years previously! That’s a crime.

We said “yes” because our country should pause, celebrate and honor the fact that a race of people who had been subjected to slavery for 244 years had finally been set free. We said “yes” to June 19th because December 6, 1865 – ultimately, a more meaningful date – has not yet entered the national discussion.

On December 6, 1965, the 13th Amendment was ratified and set all slaves within the U.S. free. But we know the sweeping, antiracist movement occurring now has set its focus on Juneteenth as the day to celebrate, not December 6. We said “yes” because we want to signal to our clients, our community and our nation that another voice, another brand feels strongly that the history of slavery, emancipation and equality is worthy of continued and focused attention. Currently, there is no day that addresses America’s history with slavery even though slave labor is in large part the foundation for America’s wealth. More importantly, four million humans died or lived and labored for free under terroristic conditions, but their names, lives, horrors, deaths and contributions may never be named. 

Finally, our team also discussed whether we should make Juneteenth an optional company holiday.

One of our designers offered the sage advice, “When I was in India, they gave optional holidays for Muslims to honor their holidays. Instead of it feeling like we were supporting them, it made it more obvious they were a minority doing something different from the rest of the group.” With that, we knew Juneteenth had to be an official company holiday, not an optional one. 

ABI has distinguished itself with our intentionally diverse team who builds and nurtures relationships with communities representing an array of cultures, values and histories. This uniquely positions us to help our clients connect, influence and build loyalty with their customers based on authentic, meaningful messages and imagery. We encourage you to test your response against that very bar – make sure your decisions on Juneteenth and your communications regarding Black Lives Matter is authentic and meaningful. 


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