In celebration of Juneteenth, leadership from Seramount and Alight, one of our DBP members, sat with “The Grandmother of Juneteenth”, Ms. Opal Lee, to learn more about this historic day, and how she encourages others to work together to eradicate the racial disparity experienced in this country. Xan Daniels, Vice President, Inclusion and Diversity (Alight) & Bridgette Scales, Senior Director, Learning and Development (Seramount) reflect on the conversation with Ms. Lee and elaborate on what Juneteenth means for them, the workplace, and American history.
XD– Juneteenth is very personal to me. I am a native Texan and a descendant of enslaved Texans. In my mother’s hometown of Gainesville, Texas, Juneteenth was always celebrated. Growing up as a child in the 70s, I always knew that Juneteenth was the day that the “slaves were freed.” It was a day of celebration with all the food (as Ms. Opal mentions in her interview!), children playing together on the playground, adults playing cards and dominos in the park, talent shows, speeches and prayer! There was always a lot of discussion about the day the slaves were freed, but little about what happened before and after. It certainly wasn’t discussed in school. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned the true economic history and how my family settled in a freedman town.
BS- I fully learned about Juneteenth when I moved to Texas after graduating from college. We had a Black Employee Resource Group who helped me understand about the rich history of Juneteenth, how celebrations were steeped in local traditions, storytelling, and the appreciation for acknowledging the importance of the date.
BS- Honestly, it was all driven by Alight! Xan was generous to reach out to Seramount to participate in the interview and spread the message.
XD– This experience truly is an example of manifestation! It all started with a colleague at Alight’s wishful thinking. Rosy, our amazing program leader at Alight, reached out to Ms. Opal’s agency with the request. Imagine our surprise when she said yes! Ms. Opal is a national treasure, and we knew that we could not keep this interview to ourselves. Seramount (DBP) has been a long-time partner for Alight. We think of DBP as an extension of our team, so it was only natural that we partner with Seramount to share this experience with their broader distribution list.
XD– With the story of Juneteenth, and more specifically, the proclamation underscores what equity means.
BS- The story provides another dimension of awareness of how the Emancipation of enslaved people was not instantaneously. Freedom was not equitable in the way it happened. Reaching out to others to bring them into the true meaning of Juneteenth is being inclusive AND providing acceptance of a different way of celebrating freedom in the United States….and that it’s okay.
XD- Tell the story! Unfortunately, so much of the Juneteenth legacy is forgotten history. Share what you know and what you have learned about Juneteenth with everyone you know. Juneteenth is not just Black history, it’s OUR history.
BS- We can celebrate by sharing an oral history of Juneteenth with family, friends, and colleagues. We can celebrate by acknowledging that freedom was so elusive to some Black Americans even after it was legally declared. We can celebrate by never forgetting Juneteenth as the path towards a free America.
XD– At Alight, we believe that diversity should be visible, valued, and sustained throughout the organization. We are committed to enabling an inclusive culture of belonging that engages all colleagues and grows the diversity of our talent to proudly represent the clients and communities we serve. In Ms. Opal’s interview, she dives into the inclusion and belonging conversation, as a reminder that we are only better together.
XD- This is our third-year honoring Juneteenth as a company holiday. I hope that our colleagues will use this day not just as a point of reflection, but also to give back. It’s also a tribute to all our freedom. It is a recommitment to the work of equality and justice. It is because of them that we can.
BS- Participating in this interview with Ms. Opal Lee was a once-in-a-lifetime experience! I spoke to a change maker, an influencer, and a living legend. It made me even more proud to be a Black Woman living in Texas. Doing work to make our society more equitable and keep our democracy firmly in place. Ms. Opal reminded me to stay resilient and steadfast for change. I am even more inspired and motivated than ever to do my part.