Liberation Month - The Intersection of Juneteenth & LGBTQIA+ Pride
by: Silas Humphries
The month of June presents a perfect time to highlight the importance of identity intersectionality. Intersectionality is a term that was coined by professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 to describe how race, class, gender, and other identity characteristics “intersect” with one another. Merriam dictionary defines it as, the complex, cumulative ways in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, intersect, and overlap, particularly for marginalized people. As complex human beings, we all have multiple identities that make up our unique experiences and perspectives. Our unique perspectives allow us to share something new and special with our organizations, communities, and the individuals around us.
With observances of Juneteenth and LGBTQIA+ Pride on the horizon, the month of June is a celebration of liberation, particularly for the Black and LGBTQIA+ communities. Both observances highlight the journey to freedom and full citizenship for historically excluded communities. This year, let’s aim to celebrate both observances as important markers of the American experience for all citizens, and especially for those at the intersection of both communities.
History of Juneteenth & LGBTQIA+ Pride Month Many of us are familiar with President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation which declared freedom for all enslaved people in the Confederacy on January 1, 1863. As the Civil War waged on, Union soldiers would travel from plantation to plantation, spreading the news of freedom. However, many slave owners in the southern states aimed to escape the Union forces that were enforcing the Emancipation Proclamation. It is reported that an estimated 150,000 enslaved people were moved to Texas, the most Western of the slaveholding states, in an attempt to hold onto slavery. Over two years passed before the Union army arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas on June 19, 1865, and announced that the 250,000 enslaved Black people in Texas were free by the executive order. This day would be known as Juneteenth and celebrated as a major step for all enslaved people in the U.S. to be considered free.
Of course, the struggle for true liberation and full citizenship for Black Americans continued for the next 100 years, culminating in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. This movement for basic human dignity and respect from a social and legal lens fueled the Stonewall Uprising on June 28, 1969. The Stonewall Uprising was a reaction, led largely by people of color, to constant police raids and violence inflicted on the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly at gay bars. When homosexuality was considered illegal, gay bars were a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ community, a place created to escape violence and social & professional ostracization. Pride month commemorates the Stonewall Uprising, which is largely considered the beginning of the LGBTQIA+ rights movement.
Juneteenth & LGBTQIA+ Pride Today It has been just over 50 years since the Stonewall Uprising, and Pride month has continued to grow in mainstream popularity, especially as social norms and LGBTQIA+ rights progress. Juneteenth, on the other hand, has been celebrated to varying degrees of consistency and popularity for the past 156 years. However, the murder of George Floyd and resulting protests of 2020 ignited a racial reckoning, with unprecedented corporate participation, that allowed for new awareness and appreciation for Juneteenth, pushing it further into the mainstream. Last year, we saw many companies recognizing Juneteenth and finding ways to honor the day for the first time; some even made it a permanent and/or paid company holiday.
Call To Action
A year later, how can we keep this momentum and continue to celebrate the importance of Juneteenth, LGBTQIA+ Pride, and liberation for all communities?
Juneteenth town hall celebration.
Day of service (focused on serving in Black communities).
Hold annual listening sessions and discussions on race.
Find ways to honor Juneteenth and Pride yearlong. Celebrating the Black and LGBTQIA+ communities shouldn’t just happen during Black History Month or in the month of June.
Highlight employee success stories from the Black and/or LGBTQIA+ community on social media, if they are comfortable.
Continue to promote and support Black employee resource group events, mentorship, and sponsorship.
Encourage allyship and participation
Continue to promote and support LGBTQIA+ employee resource group events, mentorship, and sponsorship.
Encourage allyship and participation
Celebrate identity Intersectionality among your workforce. Remember intersectionality is not just about race and gender; identity diversity can include veterans, artists, fitness enthusiasts, etc. It’s a celebration of the multiple unique qualities we bring to the table.
Invite a speaker to train on intersectionality and identity.
In June, consider highlighting employees who identify as members of the Black and LGBTQIA+ communities. Encourage joint events for the Black and LGBTQIA+ employee resource groups.
In March, consider highlighting the multiple identities of the women in your organization.
In May, consider highlighting the multiple identities of your Asian American Pacific Islander workforce.
Final Reminder - Juneteenth and LGBTQIA+ Pride month is a call for all Americans to celebrate true freedom and liberation for all. These observances highlight America’s journey to live up to its values.