Juneteenth is the annual commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States. While it has been celebrated in various parts of the country since 1865, it became an official federal holiday in 2021. 

For many individuals outside of the Black community, the knowledge might stop there. Questions remain, like what’s the importance of celebrating holidays like Juneteenth? Further, how can people support the Black community on holidays like Juneteenth, as well as year-round? 

Shontel Cargill, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and Regional Clinic Director at Thriveworks, answers these questions and more:

What is the impact/importance of observing holidays like Juneteenth on a national level? 

“Diversity, equity, and inclusion are important in every facet. In the workplace, in our personal spaces, everywhere. This applies to holidays as well. I believe that when our cultures are respected, embraced, and valued, we feel seen and heard. There are many times when members of marginalized groups feel unseen. 

Observing holidays such as Juneteenth, MLK day, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, etc. on a national level is very important for our country and those who celebrate because it truly encompasses an inclusive spirit and affords the opportunity to educate those who want to learn more about the history of these significant holidays.” 

Have there been any changes you’ve noticed since Juneteenth was declared a national holiday in peoples’ identities and/or how they view themselves and their communities?

“Absolutely! I can speak from experience. Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. This is a very important day in the Black community because it is considered America’s second national independence day. 

African Americans commemorate this special day by hosting festivities and providing educational opportunities for those who want to learn about the significance and history of Juneteenth. There is so much empowerment, pride, positive energy, and uplifting of the Black community on this day and continues after Juneteenth. I personally feel so re-energized, empowered, and reminded of how extraordinary we are as a community!” 

How do we take care to avoid potential co-opting, such as the trend of “Corporate Pride” or tokenization?

“I find it is troubling when/if corporations use ‘Corporate Pride’ or tokenization as a means of performative allyship. There must be actions beyond changing a company’s logo to include Pride colors and/or saying Black Lives Matter on a company’s Instagram. There must be REAL and ongoing support and activism — and not just during Black History Month or Pride Month, but at all times. 

Diversity, equity, and inclusion must be a foundational component in companies that support members of marginalized groups. It is also helpful to create a space for education and support of those who may mean well, but participate in microaggressions or implicit bias. Embracing different cultures means embracing diversity in differences, values, and beliefs, even if you do not agree or align with them.”

For people not a part of these communities, what are some ways that they can engage — both on these days and outside of them — to remain active, educated, engaged, and supportive? 

“It is very important that people not a part of these communities seek knowledge and understanding about these significant holidays and acknowledge that they are an integral part of American history. I also believe it is important to create a safe space to engage in conversations, support members of these communities, and embrace their differences, values, and beliefs. 

Holidays are typically one day out of the year, but that does not mean we cannot continue to honor and have conversations about why these holidays are so significant to our communities and our country.”