Juneteenth is now a federal holiday and is being recognized more than ever across America. Yet, not everyone knows why we recognize this holiday, what happened on this day, and, most importantly, why it matters.
Culture Moments podcast host Larry Baker (he/him) is joined by Dr. Brandon Caffey (he/him), Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Urbana School District #116 to discuss how to keep this meaning at the heart of this holiday and how you can keep this meaning infused within your workplace’s Juneteenth programing.
This Brave Conversation was originally a live stream discussion recorded on June 16th, 2022.
Larry Baker: Hello and welcome everyone to Brave Conversations Live with LCW. I’m your host, Larry Baker. And I use pronouns of he and him. And I am thrilled to welcome you to this special Juneteenth edition of our live stream series. Each month, we will be making space for some timely and important conversations that we hope will educate, generate discussion and help you to take actionable items back to your organizations and to your daily.
For those of you that are not familiar with LCW we are a global DEI training consulting and translation firm that partners with organizations to develop global mindsets and to help you develop your skills and systems to succeed in a culturally diverse world. Today, as I mentioned, we are talking about Juneteenth, what it is, why it matters and how you can help keep the meaning in your workplace programs each and every year.
I am joined today by with Dr. Brandon Caffey who is the Director of Diversity Equity and Inclusion for Urbana School District Number 116 here in Illinois. And he is here to share his unique perspectives on how to keep the meaning in Juneteenth as someone that is both an educator and a DEI practitioner. So Dr. Brandon Caffey, can you do a quick introduction of yourself before we get started?
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Absolutely. Thank you. And thank you for having me. So again, my name is Dr. Brandon Caffey. Uh, I just completed my 26 year in education. I began my career as, uh, a paraprofessional for three years in the Peoria school district here in Illinois.
Uh, after I became a certified teacher, I taught history before moving into the ranks of administration. I have served as an assistant principal, principal, and now serve as the director of diversity, equity and inclusion. And so throughout my I’ve been in three different school districts from Peoria to Bloomington Normal and now in Urbana.
I’ve studied extensively the Black experience in America, my dissertation, uh, was centered around the Black experience in terms of hip hop culture and how it impacts students in education. And so I, I am thrilled to be here today, and join you in this conversation about Juneteenth and the holiday itself and what it means, uh, celebrating.
Larry Baker: Awesome. Thank you so much, Dr. Caffey. So before we actually jump into the conversation, I wanted to let everyone know that after our discussion, we’re going to be answering some of the questions that you might have in regards to Juneteenth conversation. So as we dive in, please, don’t be afraid to ask your question in the chat and we will respond to it, um, at the end of our session.
So we’re gonna start off by talking about the basics, what is Juneteenth and why it is so important? And to help kick off this discussion. We have a video that we wanna show you that some of you may be familiar with.
Video Audio: I am a slave. Yes. I’m only a slave they’ll place my body in an unmarked grave. In these Confederate days. It’s kind of hard to lift every voice singing while worrying about how low the sweet cherry it’s a swinging. I could swing from a tree, bud. Hey. Oh, I hope and pray. They don’t kill me today. I still just a slave.
If the emancipation proclamation was passed in 1863, why weren’t you free until 1865?
Well, it took two years for the civil war to end.
Oh, so you were free when the war ended?
Nah, not for two more months because Texas landowners wanted another harvest.
That’s not cool.
Well, none of it was cool, but an army ship arrived on June 19th, 1865 and announced we were free. That’s why we celebrate Juneteenth.
Larry Baker: Okay, so that video gives us a little bit of insight to it, but Dr. Caffey, I’m gonna ask that you elaborate on this holiday and why it’s so important.
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Okay. Absolutely. So I’m not sure, uh, what the, um, listeners or the participants were able to see was a little bit choppy on my end, but in case. Others had had difficulty seeing the video.
Like I did, essentially the video was a parody of the old schoolhouse rock, um, episode, what is the bill? And so it was just kind of, uh, explaining the history behind Juneteenth. And so let’s go a little bit deeper into Juneteenth as a holiday it’s origins and, and, and it’s important. So Juneteenth is a commemoration holiday, uh, meant to celebrate the ending of chattel slavery in the United States of America.
And it’s important that we indicate the end of chattel slavery because we understand, and we know through history that. Slavery existed in America before 1619. 1619 was simply the first documented slave ships that arrived in America. But we know that Africans have been enslaved in the United States from as early as the mid 15 hundreds.
And so, um, it’s also important to understand. And when we celebrate Juneteenth, we’re talking about really the ending of chattel slavery in the Confederate states. The emancipation proclamation really targeted slavery in the Confederate states. We know that essentially Abraham Lincoln really did not have any power in the Confederate because they had succeeded from the union mm-hmm
And so with the emancipation proclamation, what Abraham Lincoln, you know, he set them free, but we know that he didn’t realistically have the power to do so. Essentially what he was saying is at the end of the civil war if the nation was going to be, reconsolidated and put back together at that point in time, slaves would be free.
He knew that no one was going to really follow that decree once he issued it, uh, which went into effect January 1st, 1863. Yeah. And so it’s even more important to understand. The reason why African Americans celebrate Juneteenth so much because you know, a lot of people have this critique that we should just simply celebrate July 4th, 1776.
That is independence day in America. But if you know your history, you know that on July 4th, 1776, African Americans had been enslaved for a period of 157 years. And it wasn’t until another 87 years that Abraham Lincoln would actually issue that emancipation proclamation decree, which we know still didn’t really go into effect until, uh, essentially came into an end on June 19th, 1860.
I highlight the Confederacy because even when that, when that ship and those union troops arrived in Texas on June 19th, 1865, slavery still existed in United States, legally in Delaware and Kentucky until the ratification of the 13th amendment. Yeah. But the emphasis being on, June 19th.
That is when those slaves in Texas received the word that they were free. And, um, the next day there was actually a celebration that occurred in Galveston, Texas in which they celebrated their freedom. And every year, since then, there has been a celebration originally called Jubilee day. And not only it has emerged into Juneteenth in which we celebrate the ending of child slavery in the United States.
Larry Baker: Yeah. So Dr. Caffey, you, you touched on something that was really interesting that originally it wasn’t even referred to as Juneteenth. Can you tell me about what, what, what were some of those differences that some people were calling it Juneteenth and some people were calling it Jubilee. And, and to be quite honest, I just became really familiar with the Juneteenth holiday, uh, maybe about five, seven years ago.
So can you elaborate a little bit more about the differences and how Juneteenth is actually sort of like the umbrella, uh, of the celebrations. So can you talk on that?
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Well, based on my understanding, uh, again, originally in Galveston, it was called Jubilee day. Uh, it was also known as Jubilee day in South Carolina.
When those slaves were, uh, became knowledgeable, that they were free, um, as different, um, free men and free women moved across the United States. They continued to celebrate Jubilee day. Okay. However, uh, in 1931, I believe is when Texas officially recognized Jubilee day. And I think that’s when you kinda started seeing the transition from Jubilee day to Juneteenth.
And so, I think Juneteenth has now become more of that, um, overarching, uh, umbrella of a celebration, but I think in a lot of, uh, African American communities, its origins still go back to that Jubilee day versus the terminology of Juneteenth.
Larry Baker: Okay, that’s a great point to clarify.
You also said something that I found extremely interesting. Uh, you made reference to the 4th of July, 1776, and from my knowledge of history, um, Frederick Douglas really encapsulated the, uh, the mood, if you will, for many enslaved, uh, um, Africans, when it came to. This celebration of July the fourth. As a matter of fact, he was asked to give a speech and because he was free, I think they thought that he was going to have more of a celebratory tone with his speech.
Um, but I wanted to just share, and I think we have a, a clip of the quote that he gave. And of course it was a longer speech, but to me, this quote really sums up what the 4th of July actually meant to those enslaved individuals, because he really came out and said to that enslaved person, this specific day reveals to them more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is a constant victim.
So to them, your celebration is a sham. So I think it’s really important to understand that while it is true, that we celebrate the 4th of July as a shared accomplishment in America, June Juneteenth is actually truly representing our freedom. If that makes sense.
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Correct. Okay. And so I think of, you know, if you study the history of Africans in America, you understand that we have this very unique love affair, if you will with disappointment at the same time with the country in which we live, because we have never really, truly felt like we’ve had true citizenship. A lot of the things that we’re indoctrinated with in school, in terms of singing, you know the national Anthem. And if you know the history behind that, you know, there there’s verses to that poem that, that we don’t recite.
We only sing the first verse, but if you know the history behind, uh, that poem that was essentially turned into a song, it talks about, you know the warning and the condition of this slave so different things in our, in our history, you know, as, as Black people in this country, we love America, but yet we also understand that a lot of things that we’re expected to celebrate don’t necessarily line up with our history and where we were at the time that some of these celebrations, you know, originated from.
And so in comparison, you’re absolutely correct. That Juneteenth feels more like our actual celebration, because that was our independence from, uh, a systemic system, uh, that was trying to, you know, beat us down and profit off of the, you know, the backs and the pain of Black folks.
Larry Baker: Yeah. It’s almost as if it represents the broken promises, that tend to be a common theme for the Black experience in America. And, when I’m talking about broken promises, this was originally signed January 1st, 1863, but the entire thing didn’t get passed down to everyone until 1865. So thank you so much for that.
Dr. Brandon Caffey: I wanna shift gears a little bit. I can, if I can just real quick, because you talk about broken promises and I think this is important as we talk about Juneteenth, for those who have not read, um, the decree that was actually read. In Galveston, Texas on June 19th, uh, 1863, uh, our 1865, rather go and read that because even as it declared slaves were free, it also encouraged slaves to stay on their plantations quietly.
Wow. And I, and I think that adjective is, is pretty powerful because it specifically say to quietly, remain on your plantations and continue to work. Where you are. Wow. So even though we were being declared free mm-hmm , it was almost like they were still trying to put us into a server two position yeah.
To where we could not, you know, strive for equality and, and especially not equity at that point in time.
Larry Baker: That that’s amazing. Point to bring out. Thank you so much for that insight. So we know Juneteenth, federal holiday, more people are starting to recognize it. What are. Some of the benefits and some of the drawbacks that come from this new attention that Juneteenth as a holiday has gained.
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Yeah. So, absolutely. So I think, you know, of course the, the benefits is that we get a chance to tell our history. We get a chance to tell our story. Um, We get a chance to make, you know, the younger generation to aware of what has, you know, happened in this country. Uh, we get a chance to engage in dialogue with individuals who may not come from our, uh, same background, our same walks of life and inform them.
Unfortunately, uh, the drawback is, is. The holiday and the culture is starting to be commercialized and people are continuously trying to profit again, off of the pain and off of the culture of, of Black people in this country. Um, everything is being commercialized now. Uh, it is cultural appropriation at its finest and, uh, it’s sad.
Larry Baker: Okay. I wanna make sure are we back, Dr. Caffey, can you hear me?
I think we lost our connection and hopefully we can get Dr. Can you hear me?
I hear you. I can hear that. Yeah, I can hear you now. Okay. Good. All right. Okay. We’re back.
I just wanted to dig into this point real quick about some of the drawbacks to it is because what I honestly believe is I think that we’re still having two different conversations.
Right? I think that as a culture, we are wanting focus and concentration on institutionalized racism and these inequitable educational opportunities and how redlining impacts our communities. And it seems that Congress, they chose this more passive and even a more performative approach by making Juneteenth a national holiday.
And it’s almost as if we’re still having two different conversations. Yes. Thank you holiday. I appreciate it. I understand it. But. It seems like we’re having two totally different conversations on what our community actually is looking for, um, to gain in this country. What are you some of your thoughts around that? Dr. Caffey?
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Yeah, I think that’s, uh, that’s pretty insightful because again, if you look at the history of Juneteenth, um, The day after. So essentially Juneteenth has been being celebrated since June 20th, 1865. Okay. In, in the Black community, in different aspects. And so here we are, it take, it took until 2021 for it to become a federal holiday.
Right. But the earliest, uh, recognition of it by a state government was in, in Texas in 1931. So if you just look from 1865 until 1931, the number of years then went by where it was being celebrated in the Black community. Right. Uh, to where there was really no attention. It was something that was very meaningful to the descendants of those former slaves.
Yeah. Then light other things in our country. As soon as, you know, it became more and more attention and more light was spread. Someone decided that there was an opportunity to benefit financially off of it. Right? Yeah. To where even for someone to, to, to put out the, the, the ice cream, they trade Juneteenth.
Yeah. Right. So, so here they are trying to capitalize on the culture where what Black folks really want in this country is. Yeah. And, and I say at a minimum equity, right? Yeah. Because what we’re really fighting for and what we really want is justice. And how do you make reparations to a people that you held in bondage for hundreds of years?
And we still are fighting, you know, uh, policies, uh, practices in different places and different spaces. Do not allow Black people to attain the same privileges that other folks have in this country. Yeah. So that’s good. We, we, we have to make sure that as, as we celebrate Juneteenth, we don’t lose the cultural meaning behind it.
Yes. And that we don’t, we didn’t, we never need it, uh, a federal holiday to recognize Juneteenth. We never needed that. It is good that you recognize it, but then look at what’s happening as a result of. Is that now was becoming commercialized. And, and as you know, more cultural appropriation day basis with the holiday to where I don’t want us to get blinded by the holiday and lose fact of what we’re still fighting for is justice.
Absolutely. Um, circumstantial freedom in 1865, but we still haven’t received justice in 2020.
Larry Baker: That’s a great point. That’s a great point. So, Dr. Caffey, I wanna talk about the role that you play, not only as an educator, but as a DEA and I practitioner for your school district. I wanna know what your take is on how we can meaningfully educate and recognize Juneteenth, uh, not only within our educational systems, but in the workplaces, uh, that you interact with as.
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Yeah. So for me as a, as an educator, first and foremost, uh, I’m always trying to, uh, educate students, educate the, the, the teachers that I work with on the history of Africans in America. Um, I mean, I think it really starts there because if you understand the history of what’s taking place in this country, I think everyone is more inspired to work to make sure that that DEI is something real and something substantial.
Right. However, uh, Even, even, even in educational space, things tend to get politicized. And so you have, you know, these conspiracy theorists and, and others who want to argue against things like, uh, critical race theory, mm-hmm right. It’s like, I don’t understand what, what the, what the issue is. Uh, so rather regardless of where you are on the fence, in terms of what critical race theory.
Do you even have a founding and an understanding of what it is first and foremost? And then you cannot read the history of the United States and tell me that this system has not been set up on the system of racism. Racism happens in our country. Even if you look and you study slavery and how racisms were made in this country, mm-hmm, the first terminology of using white and Black happen in Virginia.
A couple years after that first slave ship arrived in 1619 until then there wasn’t no white race in the United States. There was no Black race in the United States so our system in our country is very much set up on racism. Uh that’s how it was function. Yeah. But so in this space, I’m not trying to convince students of one thing or another, but we need to tell the history.
We need to tell the truth because that’s how we’re gonna actually move forward in terms of bringing, celebrating diversity, making sure that everyone has, you know, equal access and fairness to everything and making sure that all people feel included. Absolutely ultimate. Ultimately the D plus the E plus the, I have to equal to justice.
So we can talk about DEI, but if your mission is not to accomplish justice, whether you’re in an educational space, whether you’re in a professional space, then your efforts are really minimal.
Larry Baker: Yeah. Love that comment about it all has to lead to justice and you are absolutely right.
It is so important to gain that understanding of history. If we do not truly take a look at our history, the good and the bad we will struggle to move forward. And I think that’s such a great point that you, you brought out that, you know, all of this, however you fall on the scale of CRT and history.
That there’s a huge difference, right? Because if you’re not pursuing a law degree, you’re not learning CRT. This is an attack on history, correct. And the history is clear, the history is there. And it’s not to say, you know, we’re trying to teach people to hate this or hate that. It’s take a look at the history and then let’s have a critical conversation around that history.
So, absolutely appreciate, uh, you saying that. Uh, so I just wanted to make sure that I remind that our listen. That you can put your questions in the chat and we will, um, touch up on those, uh, questions as we move, um, throughout this conversation. Um, so Dr. Caffey, I do want to get some insight from you about practical advice that you might want to give to our listeners, because you know, you, you wear both hats, not only are you educator, but you’re actually a DEI practitioner.
How can they make sure that they help keep the meaning of the holiday to what it’s intended to be?
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Yeah. So again, to me, it is very simple. Again, it comes back to one reading and having a thorough understanding of how the holiday even, uh, began. Why it’s important, which means that you have to go back and then understand the history of slavery in America.
Yeah. Not only the history, but the impacts that slavery has had on our nation and minoritized people in this country. Yeah. We cannot. Say that we’re seeking to make our spaces more, you know, DEI, if you will, uh, without truly having the understanding. And so for those of us in this space, we know that, um, there’s a direct correlation between Juneteenth and, and what African Americans are exp you know, experiencing in educational spaces and in their workspaces to date.
Yeah. So it’s really about educating yourself so that you can be not only an ally, but a co-conspirator. To make sure that, you know, we’re bringing justice to all. Um, and it’s not, it’s not to make anyone intentionally uncomfortable, but at the same time, I’m very comfortable making people uncomfortable.
Yeah. If necessary, because sometimes that’s just what it takes in order for us to really grow and develop as a society.
Larry Baker: I echo that comment so deeply because you know, my primary role is to work in different workplaces. I believe that we have to move past these performative gestures, right? These things that make us feel good and we have to take those transform transformative actions that make people feel uncomfortable because I don’t know, in any aspect of life where you develop, where you grow and it’s not uncomfortable, right.
That uncomfortable feeling is a sign of your growth. So. For me. I agree with you a hundred percent. We, we have to get into those uncomfortable spaces if we are going to have any grown. Um, I did wanna mention one thing before I, uh, attack the question and answers is we absolutely can give you some more information about Juneteenth, uh, for free by accessing LCW, celebrating Juneteenth learning module.
Um, you can scan. If you, uh, have your phone, you can scan that QR code. If that doesn’t work for you, you can visit our website language and culture.com/the Juneteenth holiday. Um, so with that being said, I want to take this opportunity to, um, first of all give you a space, Dr. Caffey. Um, because I know that you and your brothers, you have a strong commitment to education.
And before I open it up to our Q&A, I’d like for you to talk about this initiative that you and your brothers have with our all no mater, our dear Illinois state university in normal Illinois. Can you talk a little bit about that commitment that you have in regards to that education?
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Yeah, absolutely.
So, uh, my brothers and I, uh, we, we had the, the blessed opportunity to be, to be raised by two former educators. So my father taught school for a short period of time, uh, before going into private industry, my mother is a retired educator. She taught for over 35 years in the Alton public school. But being raised by two educators, we were always taught the importance of education and the need for it, especially to uplift, uh, the African American race.
And so, um, you know, we, we weren’t privy to a, a, a ton of scholarships when we were going to school. My parents paid almost a hundred percent out of pocket. Um, and so just wanting to honor their commitment to us. And the fact that we are now all successful men, we wanted to make sure that we invested back into our, our college institution, uh, specifically in the, in the college of education to award scholarships, to individuals who wanted to go into this space of teaching.
Um, naturally, you know, it aligns with everything I believe in or aligns with everything that my family believes in. We know that we need. Uh, more teachers, more teachers of color specifically. Yeah. Even the scholarship is open to, to anyone who qualifies. But, uh, we, we are intentionally trying to bring more, uh, teachers of color into this space because we know that right now, African Americans represent less than 2% of, of teachers across the globe.
And so, um, the more voices that we have in this space, the more we can increase, uh, truth to power. Yeah. And, and, and have people at the table to say, you know what. There’s aspects of curriculum and aspects of, of culture inside the school settings that’s being overlooked. And we need to bring attention to that.
So this is just one, uh, way that we’re trying to invest back into, uh, our institution invest back into the Black community by making a pathway for people to be successful and graduate from college.
Larry Baker: And Dr. Caffey, one of the main reasons why I wanted you to talk about that is because this is an example of transformative action, right?
When, when we talk about. Or when I have conversations with organizations that say, what can we do? What can we do? These are the types of examples that I’m glad that I have at the ready to talk about because it’s addressing a need, right? It’s addressing a need in our community, but it’s also addressing a need that the school systems are having because they want diverse candidates.
And the biggest thing they say is we can’t find them. We can’t find them. So this, this act of creating scholarships is the exact type of transformative action that can help reduce that gap. So I’m glad that we had the opportunity to discuss that as well. So what I’d like to do now, if you are open to doing this, we have a couple of questions and I will see where they are going to come from.
We have our first question:
I am interested to hear what do reparations look like for you two?
Wow. Whew. I’ll let you start with that one, Dr. Caffey, because I definitely have some insights into that conversation, but what do reparations look like for us?
Dr. Brandon Caffey: That, that is, that is a very interesting question.
Absolutely. Is one that I. Honestly, I wrestle with, um, from, from year to year. Um, what I would say, number one, I would love for the United States of America to first just recognize, uh, the harm that it caused, you know, millions of, of Africans and African Americans in this country first and foremost.
Yeah. Once we recognize the harm, then we can start to have a conversation about how do we pair that harm because this, it is been many layers of harm that has, that has transpired. So you talk about psychological harm. You talk about the financial advantages that have been given to certain groups in this country, over Black people.
Um, So I think that that’s, that’s a very complex, um, question. Um, but what I would also say is that the United States has a history of making rep, uh, reparations to other groups. Absolutely. Absolutely. And so, you know, um, I, I don’t, I don’t have all of the, uh, the numbers in front of me, but you can go back, look at the different, um, reparations that have been paid financial and otherwise to different groups, but yet.
For Africans and African Americans, we have never received anything. We have never even received a formal apology. Yeah. For what has, what has happened in the trans genetics slave trade?
Larry Baker: Absolutely. And you know, for, for my take on reparations, of course it has to have some type of a financial reparation because the heart of the matter is work was done.
That wasn’t paid. That has to be paid. Right. I don’t know anyone that would work any job. For any length of time without pay. So there has to be some type of financial, um, piece to that. But to your point, there are so many different levels that need to be examined. So the first thing I think that has to happen is that we have to get an agreement that we’re going to engage in this conversation to break it down, but there has to.
Some type of financial piece to it, but there are multi-layers because, um, the impact that it’s had on, uh, the Black family and the impact that it’s had on education, um, even if we would’ve been given the, uh, original agreement of, and I know a lot of people make reference to this 40 acres in a mule, if we really think about what that agreement was, it was about.
Receiving 400,000 acres of land that stretched from South Carolina to Florida 30 miles or so in from the coast. Just the value on that promise alone today would be in the buildings, right? So we have to at least go back and acknowledge that there were attempts to have reparation, but every attempt that was made.
It was fought off. It was pushed back. So number one, it has to be a discussion. It has to be approved that we will discuss it. But in my opinion, it can’t start without first the apology. And then two, some type of financial compensation. What that is. I have no idea, but we have to be willing to engage in it.
And you’re exactly right. Reparations is part of the. because the former in, when they, when they release or when they freed the enslaved people, they paid their enslaves for their loss of their enslaved people. So it’s history. It’s not like this is something new it’s been done before.
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Yeah, I think that’s, um, that’s, that’s critical because, you know, again, if you understand the history of America, this, this country was founded on the premise of landowner.
Yes. And coming out of slavery and doing reconstruction as a lot of African Americans were able to either purchase their land, uh, coming out of slavery, they were able to purchase their own land or land that had been given to former slaves. A lot of that land was still taken over by, uh, systems of oppression in which they allowed, you know, uh, white land owners to take the.
From, from Blacks that could have generated, you know, generational wealth. Um, absolutely. So when we talk about reparations, I think looking at those, those land promises and what happened, uh, from 1865, even up through the civil rights movement, absolutely not be lost when we talk about reparations.
Larry Baker: Absolutely agree. Okay. We have a couple more questions, Dr. Caffey, that we want to get to. So let’s take a look at our second question:
Regarding benefits of Juneteenth… Do you think that the federal recognition of Juneteenth will bring more attention to legalized slavery in prison and contribute to modern abolition efforts?
Woo. So, wow. The, when we talk about this whole concept of, um, the prison system, in my opinion, that’s another illustration of a broken promise, right? Because yes, the 13th amendment technically end its slavery, but the convict clause that’s within it said that you could still have slaves if they’re convicted of a crime.
And we all know the brutal attack that led to Black life being extremely criminalized due to the Black codes. And essentially it turned these recently freed people back into slave. As a matter of fact, it’s often referred to as second slavery, which was worse than the first edition of slavery, but it still plays out today due to the prison industrial complex.
Right? So again, to your point, Dr. Caffey, we can have diversity equity inclusion without that justice piece, we have to look at the systems that have been set forth that take advantage of Black and brown bodies. Again, when you talk about reparation, that’s part of the conversation that needs to be had this vicious systemic attack on Black and brown life for the profit of others.
So I’ll let you, uh, touch on that question as well.
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Yeah. So I think the question simply posed do I think that the federal holiday is going to bring more exposure? Uh, no. Yeah.Yeah, no. Um, and I think to your point in what you just highlighted, uh, again, coming out of the civil war and coming into reconstruction and the, the ratification of 13th amendment and what you see is slavery by different names.
Absolutely. So you, you have, um, Oh, what was what’s the, the share cropping, uh, you have, uh, in the 13th amendment, you know, it specifically states that a condition and servant to is legal. As long as you know, you’ve committed a crime and you have other forms of slavery, you know, you have another system of indentured servitude that comes back into play in the United States.
And so, uh, the celebration of June. I don’t think it’s going to bring any more attention than, um, than what we already know is transpiring in this country in terms of what’s happening in, in prison systems. And even for me as an educator, you know, I’m, I’m very cognizantly aware of the fact that we have a school to prison pipeline.
You know, we’re pushing children out of school because we don’t educate them properly. We don’t recognize their culture. We don’t make inclusive spaces. And when you don’t celebrate, um, people of varying cultures, their intelligence inside of school systems that are very much Eurocentric, middle class monolingual spaces.
Then you push them out into streets and, and, and they find other ways to show their intelligence, which oftentimes will lead them into the prison system, which is a form of slavery. It is still in our constitution. That is a, a legalized form of slavery. Absolutely. Absolutely. But we gloss over it and so, no, I don’t think the federal holiday will change anything.
Larry Baker: Yeah. Thank you for that. Um, do we have another question? So we have one more question:
What are some recommendations you’d have to share for companies to celebrate the holiday with their employees without appropriating the culture?
Oh, wow. And you know, again, for me recognizing the holiday that that’s, that’s a tremendous first step, but again, I think that. We can do more. We can do some of those transformative actions where we are not just talking the talk, but we’re walking the walk, create those programs that look to address some of the issues that are impacting the Black community.
Because to me, that, that, that shows for a deeper understanding of our community. And I’ll give an example of an organization that I think is doing a great job. I read about. Kingsford charcoal. They have a program called, um, protect the pit. And if you know anything about our culture, barbecue and cookout, I, they go hand in hand and Kingsford is probably the charcoal that I know I use the most, but instead of looking at our community as just the dollars that we represent.
They went to create a program to invest in entrepreneurship. So they started out with the barbecue, uh, establishments in local neighborhoods and they provided them training and they provided them, uh, ways to write effective business plans. And it’s this whole program that the recognition that this community really values this particular tradition.
They use our product. Let’s invest in that community in a way that’s substantial as opposed to having events or days at the organization, let’s invest in the community. So I’ll let Dr. Caffey give his answer.
Dr. Brandon Caffey: Yeah. So I think first and foremost, I think. Number one, recognizing that you have individuals within your organization and that Juneteenth will mean something very symbolic for them, um, and engaging conversations with them, you know, and what, and what different ways that you can celebrate the holiday.
Without it being, you know, a form of cultural appropriation. Uh, I think it’s a good opportunity to look at your, your structure, your policies, your practices within your organization to say, is there anything that we’re doing systemically that is preventing, uh, a group of people from elevating. Um, you know, one of the things, you know, I talk about all the time is, do we have a pipeline for leadership, like in education?
You know, if someone’s a teacher or we specifically looking at Black and brown people who we believe could be good candidates for leadership to elevate them up, you know, before they apply, you know, maybe we have to go to them and ask them, like, even for me specifically, uh, before I even had the, um, the intentions of being a school administrator, I had a Black male who was a superintendent who came and visited my classroom and said, I’ve heard about the good work that you’re doing.
I’m gonna give you a chance to elevate, uh, because we need strong Black males in our organization. And I believe that you can be that individual. And so I think every organization has to take an assessment of itself to see what are you doing systemically to make your, your organization, your workplace better for people of color, uh, specifically for African Americans.
Larry Baker: Yeah, great insight. Uh, I wanna make sure that we are not leaving any questions on the table and I think so:
Do you have any examples of companies, groups, organizations that you think are celebrating Juneteenth well, honoring the history and the true meaning of the holiday?
So, uh, for this particular question, I think I touched upon it.
So, and, and again, they’re going beyond just the holiday. Because in reality, that’s what we need from organizations. It’s not just to make it a month focus. It’s not just to make it a day focus. We, we are looking for organizations to do, as Dr. Caffey said, look at your systemic structures. Are you creating barriers for your Black and Brown employees that you may need to address?
Are you willing to take transformative action that might make some people feel uncomfortable, but it’ll, it’ll go a long way for the greater good. If that makes sense, Dr. Caffey, did you have anything?
Dr. Brandon Caffey: No, absolutely. You know, for me in particular, I, I don’t do a lot of investigating into different companies in terms of what they’re doing.
You know, obviously I work in, in education. So, you know, my focus has always been to make sure that, you know, what we’re doing in this, uh, educational space is vocational space is, uh, is relevant and culturally responsive for, for all minorities and oppressed student. But, um, I like the different examples that you gave.
And I think as we enter into different spaces, different retail stores, and we are seeing things like napkins, t-shirts ice creams, we, we have a duty to investigate who these companies are. And then to ask those questions like, well, what are you doing with this money that you’re making offer this holiday?
Exactly. Investing it back into the Black community. What are you doing for the employees that work for you to, uh, ensure that they have opportunities to grow? Um, we can’t just use our, our purchasing power, um, carelessly without holding these companies accountable. Absolutely.
Larry Baker: Absolutely. I agree. A hundred percent.
Um, so, uh, I do believe that those are all of the questions that we had, uh, Dr. Caffey, that came in.
I did wanna make a reminder that you can get access to our free celebrating Juneteenth learning module. But the reality is that this has been an awesome conversation, but it just doesn’t stop here.
And, uh, we really encourage you to take advantage of this learning module that we have, because it’s a tool that you can actually bring back to your own workplace. And if you really want to partner with LCW to engage in these conversations or any of the other trainings, uh, that we have on the Black experience in the United States, then again, contact us.
We will hook you up to the right resources so that we can engage in this conversation and push it throughout your organization as well. So I wanna thank my very special guest Dr. Brandon Caffey. Always a pleasure. And an honor, when I get the opportunity to spend time talking to you, and this has been Brave Conversations with LCW Live.