Voices

Marking Juneteenth at RAPP won’t change the world, but it will keep anti-racism on the agenda

Chris Freeland, executive chairman at RAPP UK, explains why the agency is taking the day out today to focus on anti-racism.

Chris Freeland, RAPP UK

Executive Chairman

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England manager Gareth Southgate wrote an eloquent address to the nation ahead of the team’s successful start to the Euro 2020 tournament, describing the duty of his players to raise awareness of injustice, and supporting their reasons for continuing to take the knee at the start of their matches.

Of course, taking the knee isn’t going to solve the problem of racism on its own, but by continuing to make that stand, the players are communicating that their support for the cause is more than just a one-off black square posted on social media; it’s constantly front of mind.

It’s the same reason that, at RAPP, we are all taking a day out on June 19 – the anniversary of the final emancipation of slaves in the US – to focus on anti-racism.

We did the same last year on the day known as “Juneteenth” – and it would feel wrong now to let the day pass without recognition. Observing Juneteenth is about creating time and space for us to be intentional in our own anti-racism journey, and to keep the issue firmly on our agenda.

Juneteenth is a historic moment worth observing, given the inextricable link between the UK and US when it comes to issues of racism. We can’t forget that the US was once a British colony, and that many of the laws that uphold and reinforce racism, homophobia and sexism were vicariously or otherwise imported from Britain. The legacy of those policies and mode of operating are relics of our imperial history that continue to live on as an ingrained part of our culture and collective subconscious.

As Juneteenth falls on a Saturday this year, RAPP is taking a day out on Friday 18th to research, commune, reflect and commemorate a day symbolic of the racial injustices we continue to confront and the anti-racism work that still lays ahead of us.

For RAPP, it’s an opportunity to pause and give our undivided attention to thinking about what we’ve done to combat racism over the last year, and to set intentions and get creative about ways to progress our anti-racism work.

As Juneteenth falls on a Saturday this year, RAPP is taking a day out on Friday 18th to research, commune, reflect and commemorate a day symbolic of the racial injustices we continue to confront and the anti-racism work that still lays ahead of us.

Chris Freeland, executive chairman, Rapp UK

A programme of change

To get everyone in the right frame of mind and set our focus, we’ve got a programme organised for the next few days. We are watching a selection of relevant films and documentaries, facilitating conversations and roundtables, sharing a RAPP Group history lesson, and providing materials for self-guided education. We’re also joining our US colleagues in their activities, focused this year around education, and creating awareness about what Juneteenth stands for.

Together, we will explore Juneteenth’s history and dive into miseducation around the day, as well as its implications for the Black community in the US, UK and in the corporate world.

We are only too well aware that Juneteenth really is just one day, and that the rest of the time we are busy striving to keep up with client demands. I hope that, by taking some time out to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, we are building a shared culture that evolves the way we see, think about and treat situations every day - even when we are barrelling towards looming deadlines, analysing data and honing our craft.

Juneteenth is a date to slow down and set intentions for where we’re taking this work as individuals and as the RAPP family. Maybe not everyone will seize this opportunity to do the work and reflect, but like Gareth Southgate, I believe that it’s better to continue to create the time and space - however brief - in the belief that change is possible, and on the understanding that it takes time.