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As a part of our celebration of Juneteenth, local chapters of the Black Professionals at Charles Schwab (BPACS) Employee Resource Group will host in-person and virtual events that aim to raise awareness about the significance of the holiday. Keep reading to learn how Johnathan M., the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter Events Chair, is supporting the learning of fellow Schwabbies with his educational presentation that answers the question: “What is Juneteenth?”    

Juneteenth holds a special place in American history, as it marks the day (June 19, 1865) when General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce the end of slavery. This message, which came two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, finally ensured that all slaves in the United States were granted their freedom.  

Over the proceeding 158 years, the Juneteenth holiday has served as a powerful reminder of the Black community’s struggle for equality and the importance of acknowledging the past while working towards a better future. For Johnathan M., a Sr. Manager at Schwab and BPACS-DFW chapter Events Chair, the day also provides an opportunity to bring people together and educate them about Juneteenth’s current and historical importance.  

A commitment to promoting education and understanding 

“I've been living in Texas for about six years now. Over that period of time, Juneteenth has been one of the Black community staples I've been fully diving into,” Johnathan explains. “I became involved with BPACS Juneteenth celebrations because it gives people the ability to connect with the day’s history and share their ideas on how we can achieve progress together.”  

For his part as a presenter during this year’s Juneteenth celebration, Johnathan says he is excited to give participants a greater understanding of the holiday’s significance and influence. He explains that “during the festivities, I will be providing a learning component that covers what Juneteenth is, and there will also be talks about the holiday’s evolution and the impact that it has had within our society.”  

When prompted to elaborate on the rich history of Juneteenth, Johnathan effortlessly explores the origin of the day and details its cross-cultural significance. “The holiday, which is also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, commemorates the ending of slavery within the United States. After that historic moment occurred, Black communities within Texas began gathering every June 19 to celebrate with prayer services, readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, folk stories, food, and dance. So that’s how Juneteenth came to be,” he explains. “It’s that gathering of people and sharing of our distinct history that makes the day significant for the African American and Latinx communities, both of which were affected by the institution of slavery.”  

How togetherness inspires awareness 

In detailing BPACS efforts to promote cultural awareness, Johnathan adds that the ERG places importance on creating events that both enlighten participants and empower them to come together. He further explains that events like the Juneteenth celebration form a space where “individuals are able to offer their personal experiences and connect to the past,” and that by “discussing topics like emancipation, or even recalling the actions of individuals we’ve known who were involved in things like the civil rights movement, we’re able to spark conversation and find better ways to educate others.”  

Johnathan also describes how BPACS events often mirror the Black community’s tradition of finding strength and support through the act of gathering. “Getting together has always been a prominent feature of the Black community. We have these events and celebrations because there's still a lot of injustice happening in our world,” and that “having Juneteenth recognized as a Federal holiday in 2021 was a step in the right direction, as it buoyed our hopes for greater national representation and progress.”  

Johnathan also mentions how having the opportunity to bring the “Grandmother of Juneteenth, Ms. Opal Lee, to last year’s event,” further proved the combined power of assembly and education. Through her words and teachings, attending Schwabbies were given a better understanding of the holiday and even used their learnings to start important conversations within BPACS and beyond.   

BPACS “CeLibration” efforts 

United under the theme of “CeLiberation” (a play on words combining celebration and liberation), the National BPACS advisory board will be sponsoring a collaborative, on-site and virtual Juneteenth event where members and allies are able to celebrate through camaraderie and culturally inspired foods. 

In addition to this event, the BPACS-DFW chapter will be hosting a Juneteenth summer “Juke Jam.” Johnathan explains that the theme is derived from the name “Juke Joint,” which is an “old terminology that can be traced back to African American culture. It describes informal eating establishments where people met and danced to the music of a jukebox.”  

Going into greater detail about this event, Johnathan adds that the “Juke Jam” will give employees “the opportunity to use their muscle-memory and learn a couple line dances that are staples within the African American and Latinx communities. Additionally, there will be food, prizes, a photo-booth, and a gaming area for those who may have two left feet!”   

Reflection, acknowledgment, and finding new ways forward   

When asked if there’s anything else he’d like people to know about Juneteenth, Johnathan provides this insight: “I’d like everyone to know that Juneteenth isn’t just a time for us to think about all of the horrible things that have transpired in distant and recent pasts. It’s also an opportunity for people across this country to observe, recognize, and reflect on the history and contributions of the Black and Latin American communities.”  

He adds that, “beyond the celebrations and gatherings, having Juneteenth as a national holiday is also important because it creates acknowledgement. If we start with acknowledgement, we’re able to empower our community to discuss important diversity and inclusion topics, discover our similarities, commemorate our culture, and find new ways in which we can move forward as a people.”  

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Juneteenth Celebration of Diversity & Inclusion

By Beau H., Content Manager

Learn more about Schwab’s commitment to creating a diverse, inclusive, and supportive community for our employees by exploring our ERGs and other stories around employee mental health awareness.