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Substance Over Symbolism: Embrace Authentic Allyship this Juneteenth

As we celebrate the rich history and legacy of Juneteenth, organizations prepare to reaffirm their commitment to racial equality–some approaching it with genuine intentions to uplift and empower, while others have more profit-driven motivations.

For organizations choosing to show up unauthentically, I’ll let you in on a little secret: we can tell.

True allyship, not just during Juneteenth but year-round, requires a level of transparency and cultural awareness that performative practices can’t replicate. If your organization works to honor the past, understand the present, and create a more equitable future–thank you. You’re doing the work to engage in conversations to address racial injustice in our country. If your organization is unsure where to start, no worries.

Consider this your roadmap to engage in meaningful actions that dismantle systemic barriers, amplify Black voices, build internal awareness, foster partnerships, and measure impact. With these tools, we can begin to create a more equitable society that benefits Americans from all backgrounds.

Educate Internally
To understand the cultural significance of Juneteenth in Black communities, you have to understand the events that led up to and came after June 19, 1865. Authentic support requires an honest, and sometimes uncomfortable, look at our nation’s past in order to move forward. By educating ourselves, we honor the resilience, strength and sacrifice of those who fought for freedom. To help foster an environment of empathy and respect, brands should invest in:

  • Trainings and Workshops: Educate yourself and your organization about Juneteenth. Conduct regular DEIB trainings for employees at all levels. These sessions should go beyond surface-level discussions, diving into the historical context, systemic barriers and unconscious biases that perpetuate racial inequities.
  • Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): Establish ERGs focused on Black employees or racial justice initiatives. These groups provide a safe space for employees to share their experiences, advocate for change, and collaborate on initiatives that promote racial justice within the organization.
  • Leadership Commitment: Ensure that senior leaders actively engage in DEIB efforts and lead by example. Their commitment and visible support will inspire employees and drive meaningful change throughout the organization.

Amplify Black Voices
To share impact stories that resonate, organizations should actively and intentionally amplify Black voices in their marketing and communications efforts. By centering and listening to the experiences, perspectives and stories of the Black community, we can create more inclusive narratives that celebrate the diversity of all voices. This involves:

  • Representation: Ensure that diverse perspectives are represented across all marketing materials, including advertisements, social media campaigns and website content.
  • Storytelling: Share authentic stories of Black individuals and communities, highlighting their achievements, challenges and contributions. Avoid stereotypes and instead show their complexity with narratives that empower and inspire.
  • Collaboration: Partner with Black content creators, influencers and organizations to co-create content. By working together, brands can ensure genuine representation and establish mutually beneficial relationships.

Build Authentic Partnerships
Meaningful change often requires collaboration beyond organizational boundaries. Brands should partner with Black-led organizations and grassroots initiatives working to dismantle systemic barriers. This allows your organization to support local communities by providing critical resources and opportunities. Brands should seek partnerships that prioritize:

  • Black-Owned Businesses: Develop relationships with Black-owned businesses, suppliers and vendors. This not only promotes economic empowerment but creates a more diverse and inclusive supply chain.
  • Nonprofit Collaborations: Identify racial justice nonprofit organizations and explore opportunities for collaboration. This could involve joint initiatives, sponsorships or fundraising campaigns that support their efforts.
  • Grassroots Engagement: Engage with community leaders and grassroots organizations actively working towards racial justice. Organizations can make a significant impact at the grassroots level by understanding and supporting the needs of the local community.

Measure and Report Impact
Measuring impact holds organizations accountable to their DEIB commitments. It allows you to track progress, identify gaps and demonstrate your commitment to creating a more inclusive environment. This also builds trust with employees, investors and the broader community. To ensure accountability and transparency, brands should:

  • Set Measurable Goals: Establish clear and measurable goals related to racial justice and equity. These goals should be trackable and align with your organization's values.
  • Provide Impact Assessments: Regularly evaluate the impact of initiatives, campaigns and partnerships on racial justice. Collect data, solicit feedback and measure outcomes to measure effectiveness and identify areas for improvement.
  • Prioritize Public Reporting: Share progress and outcomes with relevant parties through public reporting. Transparent communication shows a commitment to authenticity and allows external parties to hold brands accountable.

Authentic allyship requires a long-term commitment from brands that extends beyond Juneteenth. By investing in clear and actionable DEIB practices, organizations can do more than talk the talk. The road to racial justice is long and filled with challenges—but with authenticity at the forefront, we can actively contribute to a more just and inclusive tomorrow.

Photo by Jacob Lund / Adobe Stock


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