Sojern Employees Explore Unconscious Bias in the Workplace in Honor of Juneteenth
To celebrate, Sojern explored how to practice anti-racism in the workplace.
Every year on June 19th, communities across the United States come together to commemorate a significant milestone in American history. Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, is a symbol of liberation, unity, and resilience for African Americans. To celebrate, Sojern explored the historical origins of Juneteenth, the enduring legacy of emancipation, and what we can do each day to practice empathy, inclusion, and anti-racism in the workplace.
On June 19th, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and delivered a proclamation announcing the liberation of enslaved individuals. This occurred two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, making all slaves in the Confederate States legally free. The proclamation emancipated an estimated 250,000 enslaved individuals in Texas. This marked a moment of jubilation and hope for the newly freed people, beginning a long journey toward equality and freedom for all.
While Juneteenth’s origins can be traced back to Galveston, Texas, the celebration of this historic event has spread far beyond its birthplace. Today, Juneteenth is celebrated throughout the nation, representing an important milestone in the ongoing struggle for civil rights and freedom for all. Juneteenth has gained increasing recognition, with all 50 states officially recognizing it as a state holiday or observance.
To commemorate Juneteenth, Sojern had the honor of welcoming Ayana King to lead an interactive and informative workshop for all employees. We want our employees to live out our core value—Embrace Inclusion—by giving them the tools to navigate critical conversations and become a truly diverse and inclusive team.
Ayana King, founder and CEO of Maximum Communications, is a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) advocate who focuses on ending racism, ageism, and other threats to humankind. She specializes in helping executives create diverse and innovative teams, and she provided invaluable guidance to Sojern. She helped us understand unconscious bias and how it can creep into our day-to-day activities without us even realizing it.
“Ayana created a safe, comfortable, open, and encouraging space to discuss this topic from the moment our call began,” says Mary Bender, manager of people programs and workplace at Sojern. “The topic of unconscious bias can feel intimidating or make participants feel defensive. After all, I can’t imagine that anyone wants to look in the mirror and admit that they have bias.”
Throughout her workshop, Ayana shared stories of her own personal bias and made it clear that everyone has it and can learn from it. She shared the foundations of prejudice and educated us on being mindful of stereotyping behaviors and perceptions of the people around us.
“She put us at ease,” Bender continues. “She made us laugh, while simultaneously referencing credible sources and breaking down lofty topics with understandable analogies that made it all make sense. My coworkers and I left the session saying ‘Wow! I am eager to do more, learn more, and put in the work.’”
As we commemorate Juneteenth, let us acknowledge the progress made, reflect on the challenges that still lie ahead, and strive for a future where freedom, equality, and justice prevail for all. Our commitment to creating an inclusive and equitable workplace will continue by providing employees with opportunities to learn and grow. As we reflect on Juneteenth’s historical significance, we are reminded that equality requires consistent, collective action to build a more just and equitable society.
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