As a company, we’ve decided to spend Juneteenth as a day of reflection on the freedoms and rights of every citizen. It’s vital to explore where we started, the long path to get where we are today and the work to still be done. We’ve already started having important discussions internally, and we’d like to share the thoughts of some of our employees, people of color and racial equality allies. We invite you to reflect on their experiences, their thoughts and emotions, because one of the most important ways to eliminate the walls that separate us is through being open and making an effort to understand different perspectives. Their names have been withheld in the interest of maintaining their privacy. Thank you for joining us.
Principal Project/Process Consultant:
So, I learned about Juneteenth a few years ago when there was a knowledge share at our local library. I researched the purpose and the significance of the day and I was disappointed to know my ancestors were enslaved for 2 years and no one told them! But then I was delighted because as an AA I finally had something to celebrate that was reflective of my culture.
Starting in 2012, I started posting black history factoids during Black History Month I post a significant contribution for those of the African diaspora, so I habitually post / share black history findings. The postings have actually developed more interest in AA history and the inspired some of my non-black friends to be more active in terms of racial equality / justice. So when someone that has not lived the black experience in America my friends and I would simply tell them to stand up for racial equality and to confront their own unconscious biases or stereotypes of blacks in the workplace and America. We need to have more conversations couples with actions to tear down the socioeconomic walls that separate us.
Racial Diversity Ally, Engineer:
I am very glad and proud that leadership at DTE has chosen to acknowledge Juneteenth and decided to give the day off, allowing for employees to use this time to further listen, learn, and reflect on this holiday’s importance. It is especially important considering what is going on in this country right now, and it is essential we all take this time to try and understand why this is going on and how people feel about it. Recently I have been trying to educate myself about this nation’s past, and something I found that was particularly enlightening was the documentary “13th” on Netflix. It talks about the perpetual injustices that have been unscrupulously bestowed on African Americans since the end of slavery, particularly in the legislative and justice systems. I recommend that everyone watch this. It is horrifyingly eye-opening and informative, but very valuable to be made aware of.
However, no matter how much research you do on your own, and although this is very valuable, this day is also for gaining a better understanding of what our friends, family, and colleagues of color are feeling during this time. It is so incredibly important to reach out and have those conversations that might not be easy, and that we might not be used to having—especially at work—in order to make ourselves aware of what they’re going through so that we may try and better empathize with them. A great article to supplement this point was shared with me by my manager, and it is titled “Your Black Colleagues May Look Like They’re Okay — Chances Are They’re Not.” It is impossible to fully understand how someone of color is feeling right now, and has felt for their entire life. But it is all too possible to listen, learn, and reflect with them on their experiences and their feelings so that we may create a better work environment for everyone, and become better, more empathetic human beings. This is what I plan to do on Juneteenth, and I hope others in the DTE community will as well. There is always more to learn.
Juneteenth is bitter sweet as it represents the painful history of our enslaved ancestors who were chained and considered subhuman then forced to work without pay or education to build wealth for their enslavers. While at the same time, it represents freedom from the enslavers and the end of slavery but only by law. In today’s climate, Juneteenth needs to represent the final breaking of the chains for black citizens that have endured centuries of racial discrimination, unfair treatment and oppression. We are all one race. The human race. Today, we need to recognize that discrimination, in any form, should never ever be tolerated again. On Juneteenth, we need not be silent but speak in support and solidarity of breaking a racist system of injustice for all.
The way I’m looking at Juneteenth is that we celebrate our nation’s independence on July 4th, but June 19th is the day that our people, all our citizens, were granted freedom. I’ll be writing to my children’s school district to reevaluate the history our children are learning about and important moments that aren’t in textbooks today. Until those textbooks change, my partner and I will be teaching our kids what they are not learning in school, but are stories that run deep in our veins as a country.
I will celebrate June 19th or Juneteenth by reading, researching, and reflecting. I pray more will take an active stand and join me to ensure the significance of this important day in American history is better understood. In conjunction with my Juneteenth celebration, on Saturday June 20, 2020 I will participate in the Poor People’s Campaign – A National Call for Moral Revival. Click here to learn more about this event https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/june2020/
Historically Juneteenth was a testament that the Emancipation Proclamation was only the beginning of a very long ending, an end that has not fully materialized today. It was a significant point in the United States history and today’s renewed focus will be another significant point in time. I am troubled and disappointed that our country has not totally ended discrimination and there is still such a high tolerance for unfair treatment of anyone, while I am appreciative of the awareness that is being generated and hopeful it brings us closer to the ending of injustice.
Director, Customer Care:
I will spend the day fellowshipping with family, friends and sharing experiences with the younger generations on how to be constructive with social change.
See our message from our Senior Vice President, Major Enterprise Projects: https://empoweringmichigan.com/celebrate-the-spirit-of-juneteenth/