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What Juneteenth Means to Jopwell Employees

Estimated reading time ~ 4 min
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African American family gathering (CC: Google Images)

When did you first hear about Juneteenth? Depending on where you grew up, your family’s knowledge of African American history, or your education over the years, you might have learned long ago that despite the official freeing of “all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State” per the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, many people continued to be enslaved until June 19, 1865 — which became known as Juneteenth.

The Proclamation applied to all enslaved persons in the U.S. but, in practice, was initially only enforced in and near Union lines. As word of emancipation spread, slave owners fled with their slaves to Texas hiding the news. It wasn’t until General Gordon Granger entered Texas with Union troops on June 19, 1865, issuing an official order of compliance with President Lincoln’s decree, that the Emancipation Proclamation was considered the rule nationwide.

As the world continues to spotlight racial injustices towards the Black community, Juneteenth is especially important. Many companies and states are now recognizing it as a public holiday in a step closer to acknowledging the wrongs of the systemic racism embedded in America.

At Jopwell, Juneteenth is an especially important day for us. It represents an opportunity for our team to reflect on African American history through group discussions, curated programming, and educational content.

In honor of Juneteenth, we encouraged our team to take a moment of reflection in a way that feels authentic to them. Here's what the Jopwell team shared about processing this moment in remeberance of Juneteenth.

"For Juneteenth, I’m planning on starting a tradition with my daughter, Mia, by taking a walk with her and talking through the history of her Black ancestors. While this dialogue will happen throughout the year, on Juneteenth, I’m making a point of having dedicated one-on-one uninterrupted time to have this conversation. While she won’t appreciate it now, given she’s a newborn, I hope that she looks forward to this day in the years to come." - Porter, CEO & Co-Founder

"This year I am choosing to observe Juneteenth by reading Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi. It's part of my ongoing education about black history and the system of oppression in this country. I am also donating to Black Lives Matter to support the ongoing fight to end state-sanctioned violence." - Iris, Recruiting

“As a Black New Yorker, growing up my family didn’t formally celebrate Juneteenth as it was more recognized by Black Americans in Texas and other parts of the South. With that said, I was definitely educated on its importance to Black Americans overall and as an adult, I plan to use the day to take time off from work to reflect and celebrate with good food, music, family and friends." - Sam, Recruiting

“I'm going to dedicate time to read Angela Davis' Are Prisons Obsolete? to learn about how the prison industrial complex or post-Civil War punishment system is in very literal ways the continuation of a slave system.” - Sylvia, Product

"Juneteenth has traditionally been rarely celebrated in American culture, which can only add to the mental labor Black people bear to function in modern society. We are highly informed of the horrors of slavery, immersed in its legacy, while also made aware that its celebration is often treated as merely a footnote in history.

In light of these, I will, without any hesitation or guilt, be taking the day off on Juneteenth, to allow just one more Black person to free themselves of that labor, both mental and physical.” - David, Technology

“Juneteenth is not a holiday that I historically celebrated, despite growing up in a Black family in the South. Given the recent events that have taken place in the US, it’s important to recognize the abolishment of slavery, and educate myself and family on the holiday. We’ll also make it a tradition to support a black-owned business on this day.” - Darryl, Partnerships

"I plan on celebrating by taking the time to educate myself about the holiday, its history, and reflecting on how such a significant day is given relatively little attention in this country. My hope is to equip myself to be a better ally and advocate for equality."- Bryan, Product

“I will take the day to continue to learn about the significance of Juneteenth & the history behind it. I also want to make sure that my friends & family understand why the day shouldn't just be a "day off" of work; it's important to know that even after June 19, 1865, the black community is still trying to overcome oppression in 2020.” - Johan, Partnerships

“I only learned about Juneteenth while working at Jopwell, which means that I went through 16 years of education without a mention of it. I’m taking responsibility for learning about U.S. history that was purposefully left out and will be taking time on Friday to read From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylora.” - Dannielle, Marketing

“For me, Juneteenth will be an opportunity to reflect on my past as a bi-racial American and I will use the day to continue to educate myself on my cultural history.” - David, Account Management

“For Juneteenth, I will be celebrating with my family by cooking and expressing love for my community. It’s an important day for myself and the rest of the world.” - DeMarcus, Partnerships

“My father’s family is originally from Bowman, South Carolina and we have traced their lineage as sharecroppers and enslaved African-Americans. I’ll be taking the day to honor their contributions, resilience, and history.” - Tani, Community

“For me, this will be the first Juneteenth I truly celebrate. I plan to use this day to look inwards and create action steps for how celebrating the Black community can be integrated into my everyday life. This Juneteenth is all about holding myself accountable on how I am going to continually educate myself in order to be a true ally and create meaningful action moving forward.” - Erin, Account Management

“As a child of two Black parents I’ve known their perspectives, but growing up in Brooklyn and attending public school, the only knowledge I had about Juneteenth was my own personal research. This year, I am celebrating with a small group of close friends where we will enjoy good food and play games created by Black entrepreneurs.” - Margot, Community

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