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Juneteenth 2023 Observations

While 1863 marked the end of slavery with the establishment of the Emancipation Proclamation, it wasn’t until two years later that news of their freedom had made its way to the enslaved people of Texas. June 19, 1865 is celebrated as the final liberation of enslaved African American people in the south. Texans have long honored iterations of this June 19th observance, having called it Freedom Day, Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day, and Black Independence Day, before Juneteenth became a state holiday in 1980 and officially became a national holiday in June of 2021.

 

The recognition of Juneteenth as a national holiday in conjunction with the rise of new diversity, equity, and belonging (DEI) initiatives adds a new layer to ongoing progress. Executives are now being asked what they will do to ensure that their companies are reflecting the communities that they serve.

 

The Growth of DEI

In DEI spaces today, change is happening in many positive ways. DEI-related jobs have been on the rise since 2020; in that year alone, DEI job postings increased a remarkable 123% between May and September. Meanwhile, LinkedIn reported that “diversity and inclusion manager” was the second-fastest-growing job in 2022. While some organizations have struggled with properly supporting their DEI initiatives and departments after they’re established, the mere existence of these functions demonstrates a clear understanding that a DEI commitment is truly necessary to excel in today’s business world.

 

Even the language we use to discuss these topics has evolved. Conversations about DEI now often include DEI&B – bringing another key concept, the idea of “belonging,” to the conversation about how organizations can ensure everyone has the support and respect necessary to succeed and thrive. Social justice is not a topic exclusive to political activists and academics, but something discussed in boardrooms, newsrooms, and living rooms. Progressive organizations are evolving from compliance to real commitment, and these topics of justice and equity have a larger platform than ever to be discussed and implemented.

 

What Comes Next?

Despite the overall growth in DEI, there are still hurdles to overcome and work to do. According to recent research, a staggering 53% of HR leaders surveyed are feeling burnout, which is leading to 48% of them seeking new career opportunities altogether.[3] When we look around, we still see enormous polarization and divisiveness, with particular vitriol often aimed at initiatives designed to improve diversity, inclusivity, and justice. In such a climate, it can be difficult to stand firm and do the work – but what we need, more than ever, is people who are willing to do just that. It is time for us to be courageous in every aspect of our lives: personally, professionally, and politically. There is still a long road ahead of us, but the more we build community on this journey, the quicker we will arrive at our destination, and the more we will have to celebrate when we arrive.

 

By Tyson W. Fant, M.A.

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