This Sunday, June 19, we celebrate Juneteenth, or Freedom Day.
The holiday commemorates the 157th anniversary of the proclamation of the freedom of all enslaved people by the Union Army General Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas.
To observe this significant moment in our history, we spoke with representatives from symplr employee resource group Black Employees Supporting Talent (BEST). We asked our symplr colleagues:
What does Juneteenth mean to you?
Debra Robinson, vice president of Client Services at symplr and a founding member of BEST, shared her thoughts:
“Juneteenth is a time to celebrate the end of slavery, to see how far we have come, and how much further we need to go in order to truly live in the land of the free. I am proud to be a part of the symplr family. At symplr, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is not only implemented but celebrated. In observing this holiday as a company, symplr is fostering a deeper understanding of past historical events, and African American experiences. ... [It’s a] reflection on my history. Challenges that were overcome—and strength, resilience, and perseveration of African American people.
Traditionally, the holiday is celebrated with parades and festivals—and now more than ever before, we’re seeing emerging celebrations nationwide. And if there is not a celebration near you, consider following the advice of Ray Thomas, systems engineer team lead at symplr:
“For me as a music lover, what better way to celebrate the day than to listen to some of the songs that exhibit what the day is all about? Do you have a streaming service? Simply search its playlists for Juneteenth and let one run while you enjoy your day off. Great, easy way to connect—in conjunction with the many events or simple reflection that are available to participate in locally on the holiday.”
Other members of BEST spoke about what Juneteenth means to them:
“Juneteenth means to me freedom that is not only in paper, but in actuality. Even after the Emancipation Proclamation, it still took a few years before freedom from enslavement was truly obtained. This holiday represents the sacrifices, tears, separation, and ultimately the prevailing of doing right by a person. This was a big step in posing blacks not as property, but as people in society today.” – Gabriele Grandy, HR operations analyst at symplr
“It is a day of honoring our ancestors and acknowledging all that they endured. Never forgetting those that fought hard to be treated equally as well as those that fought for them. This is a day of remembering.” – Michelle Warmsley, customer support specialist II at symplr
“It is a day that we celebrate the trials and tribulations that our ancestors endured in this nation. Slavery is the largest blemish we have as a nation, and for a group of people to be unaware that their freedom had been granted makes it that much more of a blemish. Educating ourselves through research and dialog will keep us from being left out of the know moving forward.” – Shawn Edmonds, project manager at symplr
We also asked BEST members how they feel about 2022 being symplr’s second year observing Juneteenth:
“[It] means that I am part of a company that celebrates every employee. Honors the past as we make moves towards a better future, and promotes diversity, equity and inclusion.” – Debra Robinson
“symplr observing Juneteenth is important as it represents symplr’s awareness and duty to inclusiveness. It really exemplifies how symplr both recognizes their employees’ social issues, but they also celebrate their employees’ triumphs and promote what is right.” – Gabriele Grandy
“The willingness to push past the boundaries and make this day an official holiday speaks to the character of our leadership. Before being freed, many slaves ran away from the torture and abuse they lived every day, but this was only possible because of the brave Black AND White people that chose to risk their lives to help them. I believe the leaders of this company would have been amongst those people. For that reason and more, I am proud to work for this company.” – Michelle Warmsley
“symplr observing this holiday means a lot to me. It shows that we are a company that not only speaks about [diversity, equity, and inclusion], but we are taking strides to improve with our actions. I am proud to say that symplr is the first company that I have worked for that recognizes this day.” – Shawn Edmonds
“Working for a company that led the way in making this day an official company holiday means a lot to me. It shows that symplr will take the initiative to stand in the face of adversity and do what is right and honorable to create an inclusive environment for its employees. This is an example of our Core Values in action, and I am thankful to be part of such an amazing proactive and forward-thinking company.” – Kellie Richardson, provider enrollment services account manager, symplr
“symplr recognizing Juneteenth not only displays recognition of a major milestone for the true freedom of all people, but exemplifies one of the Core Values we run our company on: Lead Through Equality & Integrity. Through this Core Value, we’re in fact leading an entire industry by example—giving our employees a day off to reflect, and hopefully ponder the thought that we succeed because of such diverse and free minds driving our missions every day.” – Ray Thomas
Finally, we asked our symplr colleagues how they plan to celebrate Juneteenth this year.
“This year, we are having a Juneteenth celebration at our church. There will be presentations and dances to honor the holiday and reflect on our history.”– Debra Robinson
“We celebrate by going to the local festivals and seeing different people perform and listen to music, all while eating delicious food that those around the community have made.” – Gabriele Grandy
“Typically, I meet up with friends, family to eat, drink, and just enjoy being amongst one another. We usually talk about the pain and struggles in the past and present, but we also celebrate how far we have come and how we influence the world in every way. I also like to watch movies that represent the black culture and tell our stories then and now. Our stories are filled with pain, beauty, overcoming, strength, kindness and love.” – Michelle Warmsley
“My family and friends use this day to reflect and challenge one another on how we can continue to educate and debate each other on the issues that stem from the past. We usually have strong dialogue on how the different generations have responded and are dealing with the issues of the past and present.” – Shawn Edmonds