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What I Learned from Juneteenth Now, and Beyond

What I Learned from Juneteenth Now, and Beyond
Posted on Wednesday, June 24, 2020 by Rae Shanahan
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Recent protests over the death of George Floyd and calls across the country for increased diversity, equality and justice have come from individuals, leaders, groups and both private and public organizations.

unity-and-diversity-hands-making-a-heartIt’s exciting and hopeful to see these desires for change but why does it take more death to bring these conversations and changes to the forefront?

To quote Kiva Wilson, senior director and Dr. Evelyn Carter, director at Paradigm, “as two Black women whose careers have focused on helping build more diverse, equitable, and inclusive organizations, seeing this level of response from companies causes a complex set of reactions: anger that it took more members of our communities to lose their lives for some (not all) companies to take action, misgivings that some of this may be performative, and tempered optimism that, finally, a majority of companies are truly committed to creating more just, fair, and inclusive organizations.”

Now it is especially important to recognize and realize flaws and imperfections when it comes to inclusion, diversity, equality and anti-racism. It is only then that we are able to move forward, heal and fix internal issues. To my white colleagues, never underestimate the power of allyship. According to the THE ANTI-OPPRESSION NETWORK, allyship is an active, consistent, and arduous practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, in which a person in a position of privilege and power seeks to operate in solidarity with a marginalized group.

How do you live allyship?

Educating yourself.

If you’ve never heard of the Juneteenth holiday celebrated last week, you aren’t alone. In fact, it is under-recognized across the United States. Which is in and of itself indicative of our countries complicated past and relationship with our own sordid history.

Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19th, marks the very end of slavery in the US back in 1865. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, it took almost 2 years to get word to all the enslaved. Essentially, it is a celebration of freedom, but it is also a call to action and a time for reflection, conversation, giving back and recognizing injustices faced by the BIPOC community. I am one that did not appreciate Juneteenth.

Moving forward. 

It’s important for leaders to not make this movement into a one-time statement but dedicate resources and make commitments you can keep ensuring this momentum and change doesn’t fade away. Follow-through is essential now. Reviewing policies, creating educational opportunities and reflecting on company culture, diversity and inclusion procedures and making necessary changes to keep moving in the right direction is something we are doing and continue to do moving forward. 

Again, to quote from Wilson and Carter, “because part of allyship is amplifying existing conversations, this is an ideal day for non-Black people within your organization to create spaces for others to learn more about Juneteenth.” Here are some helpful articles to read on the topic. 

Now is the time for deep and difficult reflection. The conversations some of us are having with ourselves hurts. It’s hard to admit that we may be part of a problem. Consider power structures, ask yourself tough questions, like the ones I’ve been asking myself below.

  • How have I contributed to a society or workplace that is not equitable for all?
  • When was the first time I thought or recognized race?
  • When was the first time I recognized power structures?
  • How can I create a more inclusive environment?

Practice what you preach.

We continually strive to walk the walk in our own organization, which is why we are listening to our BIPOC colleagues and peers and highlighting their voices in our live morning discussions, Jon Talks and our daily standups. These talks include our CEO, Jon and broadcasting it live to all our “solvers” home offices with updates, news and other important information. We started by listening to understand, now we are preparing for action.

We are making strides, but we have a long way to go. We are dedicated to fostering a workplace that is not only inclusive, but open, accepting and empathetic. 

If you want to learn more about being an empathetic leader, you can read more below. 

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