Juneteenth, recognized annually on June 19th since 1865, provides an opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the progress made in the journey toward a more equitable world. It is a time to pause and reflect on moments in history that played a significant role in shaping today’s society and recognize the courage of individuals who worked to get us to this point.
To honor the day, Samsung’s Galaxy of Black Professionals Employee Resource Group (ERG) hosted several internal events designed to amplify Black voices and raise support for Black businesses and entrepreneurs. With people at the heart of the company’s core values, Samsung is constantly striving to create a diverse and inclusive team that promotes belonging and individuality, while driving fairness and equity.
A key component of cultivating this inclusive environment is the need for honest and meaningful conversations that drive growth, education and awareness among communities. Recently, we sat down with executive members of Samsung’s Galaxy of Black Professionals ERG to discuss how to respectfully honor the holiday’s legacy, while joining the celebrations in an impactful and meaningful way. Here are their perspectives:
Rob Davis, Executive Director, Customer Care
Juneteenth celebrations have always been focused on remembering how our forefathers fought for our freedom. We celebrate emancipation, albeit belatedly, with simple pleasures. Friends, family, food, and music are all consistent with the way we did it 150 years ago. It is a celebration about us, for us, and by us. More and more people are aware of the holiday, especially as companies have started to acknowledge a time-honored tradition. Given all this attention on Juneteenth, my hope is that the holiday doesn’t become commercialized rather that it inspires more positive changes and momentum for our community. It’s like the first time you hear your much older Auntie use one of your favorite phrases quite awkwardly…there’s just no use fighting, it is here to stay!
Rather than simply using Juneteenth to enhance their brand, all companies can use the themes of communication and education – which are very much aligned with the spirit of Juneteenth – to increase awareness of the holiday and its meaning.
Grass roots campaigns in key markets can have a greater impact than a national campaign costing millions in advertising. How about “STEMteenth,” where companies award scholarships to worthy students of the sciences? Or sponsoring an HBCU golf tournament in June in conjunction with one of the high-dollar professional tour events where so much money is invested? With the same spirit of creativity freed slaves used to establish and celebrate this holiday, we can come up with innovative ideas to retain the spirit of the day.
Marcia Ellis-Green, Senior Director, Customer Support
Juneteenth, known for the emancipation of our forefathers, has quietly been a celebration of our freedom from slavery, but also a reminder of the pain, struggle and sacrifice our ancestors endured for many years. Nationally recognizing this heroic event allows all to know and learn about our journey and its place in history but unfortunately, many companies use it as a “platform” to further their brand and agenda. As leaders and members of the community, we have an obligation to influence how this day is remembered.
We cannot truly move forward without understanding and embracing the past. As a company, it’s not about what you “do” to show the public you recognize Juneteenth, it’s about the actions you take within the company. Innovation, change, progression and contribution cannot exist when people are oppressed. History has shown this! Freedom opens the doors to collaboration, ideas, partnerships and growth. It’s not just a day we should reflect on once a year, it’s a continuous effort to drive change. We should all ask ourselves, “what have I done today to drive change, embrace diversity and make a difference?” Knowledge is power, but it is our actions that impact the world.
Seth Brown, Director, MX Strategy & Operations
When I think about some of the most recent examples of where corporations and public entities “missed the mark” in authentic acknowledgment of community-requested moments like Juneteenth, it was due to lack of awareness. Juneteenth at its core is about freedom. When you look around at the disparity in society, there are many segments of the community that are still not free, or as free, as others. If we truly believe – and take action to ensure – that all people should be free to be equals, free to be equitable, and free to be inclusive, then the commercialization of Juneteenth can be prevented.
After the George Floyd community outcry, you had many organizations respond with actions to create a short-term solution. What is really needed are solutions for the long-term problem of inequity in corporations. We are looking for organizations to invest in their employees via minority internships, mentorships, and promotional opportunities. We are looking for organizations to partner with minority vendors and partners. We are looking for increased support in the external/surrounding communities to create a better world.
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