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Juneteenth 2021 signals waves of change

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What Black Independence Day means to RingCentral employees now

Highlights:


On June 19, 1865, about two months after Lee surrendered at Appomattox— and over two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, Union general Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to tell enslaved African-Americans that the Civil War had ended—and that they were finally free.

Juneteenth 2021 signals waves of change

Juneteenth is now the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in America. Today, particularly following nationwide protests over police brutality and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other Black Americans, we thought it was time to take a fresh look at Juneteenth, and the ways we’re celebrating now, particularly in light of the widespread protests and sweeping changes we saw across the U.S. over the last year.

General Order #3, read June 19, 1865

“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”

 – G. Granger, Major-General Commanding, U.S. Forces, Texas.

We sat down with a group of RingCentral employees to discuss today’s incarnations of Juneteenth, and what the holiday means to them.

Shenine Jones (SJ): Senior Accounts Receivable Analyst

Arious Salley (AS): Senior Billing Analyst

Ofori OwusuAddo (OO): Sales Development Representative

Dave Ward (DW): Video Collaboration Specialist

Juneteenth is still a new-ish holiday to a lot of people. Is it new to you? When did you learn about it? When did you start to celebrate it and how?

OO: I’ve known about it for a few years now, but I wasn’t celebrating as much as I should have. Now, I’m taking it more seriously and learning as much as I can about it. It’s extra special to me because it’s also my birthday!”

DW: “I first learned of Juneteenth while attending Houston Community College many years ago, and have attended several celebrations in Houston over the years. On a personal note, our family is going on our fourth year of celebrating the birth of our daughter June—on Juneteenth!”

SJ: “I have known about Juneteenth since I was a teenager, although, I cannot say I have celebrated until recently. As of recent years I have committed myself to actively learning more about the holiday and frequenting vendors and artists that celebrate Black history.”  

AS: “Juneteenth is actually not a new holiday for me—I’ve been celebrating it for a few years now. In 2017, I began noticing many black celebrities posting that the African American Independence day was not in July, but actually June 19th. This piqued my curiosity, so I began researching and was elated to find that the city of Atlanta was known for hosting large events surrounding the holiday. I’ve had the pleasure of attending various block parties that were filled with individuals of different cultures acknowledging African American Independence Day.”

What does it mean to you that RingCentral makes Juneteenth a paid holiday? Are you seeing other companies do that? 

DW: “Making Juneteenth a paid holiday is more evidence that RingCentral “walks the walk” in regards to diversity and inclusion, and it makes me proud to be a part of the company.”

SJ: “It speaks to the company’s appreciation of all of its employees.  I actually have not seen any other company make Juneteenth a paid holiday yet.  When I tell people RingCentral acknowledges Juneteenth as a paid holiday, the reaction I receive is always interest…and awe.  People want to know more about us when they hear that.” 

“When I tell people RingCentral acknowledges Juneteenth as a paid holiday, the reaction I receive is always interest…and awe.  People want to know more about us when they hear that.”  – Shenine Jones

OO: “It means a lot, because a lot of companies say they value diversity but very few actually put their money where their mouth is. After the murder of George Floyd, many companies recognized Juneteenth but how many actually made it a company holiday? The fact that RingCentral made it a holiday speaks volume about the leadership here. I’ve only been at RingCentral for a little over a year but I can tell that leadership really values diversity and inclusion.”

AS: “It means a lot to see RingCentral embracing Juneteenth; especially going the extra mile to make it a paid holiday. I have had previous employers pass out literature in an attempt to educate other employees about the holiday…but none have gone to this extent. Many companies tiptoe around diversity and inclusion, but RingCentral stands boldly on its mission to provide a safe space for all of their employees, including their employees of color…and I love it!”

What else could RingCentral be doing to honor Juneteenth? 

DW: “What if we asked people to share photos and video of Juneteenth celebrations from around the country on social media? Or post the Emancipation Proclamation?”

OO: “In my opinion, RingCentral is miles ahead of so many companies when it comes to Juneteenth. I just know that RingCentral will continue to show the importance of this holiday for years to come.” 

How do you see the future of Juneteenth, both within RingCentral and in the world at large? 

DW:Juneteenth celebrations in Houston were always fun, open and positive, so doubling down on that willingness to all come together, put differences aside and collectively look forward would be awesome. Briefly looking up some of the history of Juneteenth, some point to the Civil Rights movement eclipsing Juneteenth for a number of years (rightfully so in my opinion), but the result was a shift to more inclusive and open celebrations starting in the 1970’s. I for one, would love to see that continue and expand, and that is in no way selfishly motivated by my daughter’s birthday! ;-)”

SJ: “I see Juneteenth becoming a more popular holiday for RingCentral and the world as we continue to spotlight and talk about it. “ 

OO: “More and more people will know about it and celebrate but I do think it’ll take some time for it to receive the recognition that it deserves. I see RingCentral continuing to celebrate it.”

AS: “Juneteenth is becoming a very popular holiday across the world, so with RingCentral being a global entity, I see them adopting more and more trends, as they become more widespread.”

Juneteenth is enjoying a resurgence across the country— with cities, municipalities and organizations including the Smithsonian and Henry Ford Museum stepping up to promote both Juneteenth and Black culture as a whole. Today, we are able to see that bright line between the joyous events of June,1865 and the America of 2021. Sometimes change begins in Washington. Other times, we are able to make a difference in our own boardroom, or at an individual level. 

However change happens, we know – respect and appreciation for our differences grow out of education and the knowledge that we are all #strongertogether.

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