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| Written by Marie Johnson, CMP

Juneteenth – Learning from our History and Celebrating our Progress

Juneteenth Equity and Inclusion

In support of cultural awareness, we recognized Juneteenth as a paid holiday for the first time in 2020. “Declaring Juneteenth as a paid holiday last year allowed me an opportunity to do something important, at a time when I felt helpless and overwhelmed by everything that was happening in our country,” said Jean Johnson, Co-CEO of Meetings & Incentives Worldwide.

“I read about a huge group of CEOs that all banded together this year to declare Juneteenth as a federal holiday as a sign of support for the black community, and for reflection and healing. I was so inspired, I wanted M&IW to continue to show our support for our black brothers and sisters,” said Jean. “I don’t think many people know what the day stands for, and until last year I wasn’t aware either. By declaring Juneteenth as a paid holiday, we heighten the awareness and hopefully shed light on the importance of what this day represents. My hope is to further the education around the history of Juneteenth and for our employees to take the time to gain a better understanding of its significance.”

We Change the World by Changing Ourselves First

The core values of M&IW include equality, diversity, and inclusion. As part of our “We Change the World by Changing Ourselves First” initiative, Debveda Berry-Moore, Senior Program Manager with Meetings & Incentives Worldwide gave an inspiring, heartfelt, and educational presentation on the history of Juneteenth, which symbolically represents freedom for Black Americans and the end of slavery, at our all-company meeting.

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.  Even though the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, it was not until June 19, 1865, that the slaves in Texas were freed. That was the date that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with the news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free.  This 2 ½ year delay was due to the fact that Texas, being one of the most remote slave states, had a very low presence of Union soldiers and it took that long for enough forces to arrive there to be strong enough to influence and overcome the strong resistance they had to release their slaves.

The celebrations that follow the reading of the proclamation by Major General Granger began a tradition that has lasted 156 years that celebrates African American freedom and achievement, while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures. As it takes on a more national, symbolic, and even global perspective, the events of 1865 in Texas are not forgotten. Respect and appreciation for all our differences grow out of exposure and working together. 

Learn More and Get Involved

Getting involved and supporting Juneteenth celebrations creates new bonds of friendship and understanding among us, which ultimately is the spirit of Juneteenth.  For more information and ideas on how you can celebrate in the workplace, in your communities, and with your families check out this website.