2020 was a year of seismic change across the globe. Foundational cracks ripped through the bedrock of the world’s understanding of the Black American experience and caused a shift in the collective global consciousness.
The pandemic had an outsized impact on the Black, Brown, and under-resourced, as well as the stubbornly persistent and mentally exhausting issue of police brutality. Yet through all the death, destruction, and disappointment that came in 2020, we ended up coming closer together as a country – and with people from all over the world. Black Lives Matter became the largest movement in U.S. history and spurred a reckoning with racism across the globe.
Together, we’ve started to forge a new path towards an even more inclusive society – so much so that African American Freedom Day, Juneteenth, was widely celebrated by Americans, many for the first time, in 2020.
On the eve of Juneteenth 2021, we wanted to take a moment to look back at the history of Juneteenth and share how the team at Drift is celebrating the holiday this year.
What is Juneteenth?
Although 1776 was the year the United States was freed from British rule, the recorded independence day for slaves did not come until 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln.
That’s right – nearly a century had to pass before this freedom was extended to all Americans.
On top of that, it took another two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation for all Americans to be considered free. Why? Because slave owners continued to keep their enslaved people captive.
Then on June 19, 1865 — Juneteenth — U.S. federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and ensure that the law was enforced.
Juneteenth became a national holiday in 1980, and it is currently recognized by 47 states and the District of Columbia. And on June 17, 2021, President Biden signed a bill establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
How is Drift celebrating Juneteenth?
Drift is committed to supporting and amplifying the voices and experiences of the Black community, and we celebrate this holiday as an observance of freedom for all.
Since our founding, Drift has prided itself on building a diverse community, and over the last year in particular, we have doubled down on our efforts to foster inclusion – including creating platforms such as Drift for Black-owned businesses.
Drift also strives to foster a supportive environment within the workplace by providing a variety of resources for all our employees, one example being the expansion of our Drift Book Club library to include more diverse authors and topics.
We also continue to host discussion groups as a safe space for employees to share and process what is happening around them and to address systemic racism and inequity in the Black community.
Introducing the Black at Drift ERG
Drift employees are encouraged to create communities within the company to forge connections with others.
To celebrate Juneteenth this year, the Black community within Drift is excited to announce the formation of a brand new employee resource group (ERG).
It first began as an informal Slack channel. Over the past year, we’ve grown in membership and momentum – so much so that we are now formally recognized as an official ERG. We’re calling it Black at Drift.
Our primary goal is to enhance the career development and success of Black employees at Drift. In 2021, our focus is primarily on relationship building and talent development.
Black Drifters are spread out across the country, and like many other underrepresented groups, we often lack a sense of community in the organization. To help solve this pain, the first step we’ve identified is to create a “welcome packet” for self-identifying Black Drifters. We also plan to host monthly socials and launch a buddy program to bring people together and create a support network.
Last summer, we rolled out a mentorship program during the Black Lives Matter movement. Black at Drift is now partnering with our People team to double down on this effort. We plan to create a detailed career track for each member of the Black at Drift ERG who wants one. This will go a long way to improving the impact of the mentor/mentee relationship, and we’re excited to have so many allies at the senior level stepping up to help.