I was 2 weeks into my time at ActiveCampaign but I had gotten the memo that donuts on the kitchen island were usually an open invitation for consumption.
Now, to know me is to know that I rarely say “No” to a sweet. So, with little hesitation, I opened the box, and inside there were a dozen chocolate donuts and a Texas flag. Perplexed, I looked around and met eyes with my coworker who appeared eager to rescue me from my confusion.
“It was me. I brought the donuts.”
“What’s the occasion?” I asked.
“JUNETEENTH,” he said proudly, “I brought them to share with our ERG!”
Juneteenth wasn’t on my calendar that year. In fact, only about half our ActivelyBlack Employee Resource Group (ERG) members even knew what Juneteenth was. Why, as adults, were we just learning of such a momentous day? It felt shameful in the moment, but this experience is not uncommon. It is a byproduct of the well-known American practice of selectively suppressing history that’s tough to swallow. Without mainstream prominence, your knowledge of celebrations like Juneteenth becomes heavily dependent on the region you grew up in, the family you grew up with, and the schools you attended.
I did not expect my first Juneteenth celebration to be at ActiveCampaign.
In fact, prior to joining AC, it was an incredibly foreign experience to discuss being Black with my non-Black colleagues. Albeit well-meaning, my family subconsciously coached me to believe that in the workplace it was better for me to blend in (maybe they won’t treat you differently), go above and beyond with my work (you’ll have to work twice as hard to get half as far), and not to ruffle any feathers (you don’t want to be labeled as the angry Black girl). I was taught to hold my breath and bite my tongue. It’s a generational thing that I’m unlearning.
For me, the recognition of Juneteenth feels symbolic. We didn’t get a spotlight on Juneteenth by holding our breath and biting our tongue. It’s a step forward in acknowledging the Black experience in spaces where it may have previously been overlooked, and a reminder to us all that “doing the work” takes time and resolve.
Here’s how we’re celebrating Juneteenth at ActiveCampaign this year…
On June 9th, our ActivelyBlack members local to Chicago gathered to enjoy food and drinks from Black-owned businesses throughout the city while watching a live floral installation meant to serve as an ode to Juneteenth & Pride. Because our office was not fully occupied at the time of the event, the installation was created with the purpose of being dried and available for viewing throughout the summer upon employee return.
Florist John Pendelton of Planks & Pistils, collaborated with us to create a floral display with incredible intention:
“I used palm branches as they are found in warm, tropical climates and most African Americans originate from the western horn of Africa. Protea as it originates in Africa and is actually the national flower of South Africa. And finally, I used red amaranthus caudatus which originates in Central America and has the nickname ‘love lies bleeding.’ I used this as a nod to the bloodshed experienced by Black people over centuries and even now.
There is also a mini garland with the rainbow colorway as a nod to Pride month. There is an intersection there which needs to be acknowledged in the constant striving for Black freedom for ALL.”
Donate to John’s public Juneteenth installation fund here.
As a group, we also started a new Juneteenth tradition and played “Black Elephant”—a play on a popular gift exchange game often enjoyed during the holiday season. Our members exchanged gifts ranging from books, candles, and cocktail kits, all coming from Black-owned creators/businesses.
Check out the Black-owned businesses ActivelyBlack worked with for Juneteenth:
Our ActivelyBlack members in Atlanta will be coming together as well for a local Juneteenth event (The Jubilee on the Lawn) supporting Black chefs, musicians, and community voices.
ActivelyBlack is also encouraging our allies to get in on the celebration through our Juneteenth Cook for a Cause initiative. Throughout June, each time an employee shares a photo of food or drink they made from the ActivelyBlack member-curated Juneteenth Cookout Cookbook, ActiveCampaign will be donating to The National Black Food and Justice Alliance, which supports hundreds of Black urban and rural farmers and land stewards. We’ll also be donating to The Okra Project, which provides resources and meals to Black transgender people worldwide.
How can you celebrate Juneteenth?
The meaning behind recognized holidays often gets lost in a cloud of commercialization. Here are a few ways you can observe Juneteenth in a meaningful way:
- Educate yourself on the significance of Juneteenth (this article is a great start), then share what you learn!
- Search for Juneteenth celebrations in your area! If you’re in Chicago, check out this ultimate guide to Juneteenth.
Bonus: Planks & Pistils’ public Juneteenth installation will be live by 11am on Saturday, June 18 at 3729 S Langley Ave, Chicago, IL 60653.
- Cook recipes from Black chefs—we love the cookbook, Watermelon & Red Birds. You can purchase the book from Black-owned bookshop Semicolon Chicago here.
- Support Black-owned businesses in your community or online—see ActivelyBlack’s Black-Owned Business Gift Guide here.
- Service your community by volunteering on your day off. A quick “Juneteenth Volunteer Opportunities” search will help you surface your options.