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Talking … and listening

Juneteenth offers opportunities to learn, grow

The USPS Employee Engagement team has advice for teams that discuss the nationwide protests over racial injustice, including tips for conversations that occur through videoconferencing.

Juneteenth, an annual celebration of the end of slavery in the United States, is taking on added significance this year amid the nationwide protests regarding racial injustice.

The commemoration traces its roots to June 19, 1865, the day that Union soldiers told enslaved African Americans in Galveston, TX, that the Civil War had ended and they were free.

Juneteenth — which gets its name from blending the words “June” and “nineteenth” — is now celebrated throughout the United States and has also been marked in other countries, including France, Ghana, Israel, South Korea and Taiwan.

Although Juneteenth is not a federal holiday, it offers opportunities for people to learn more about the nation’s rich diversity and history.

This year, it can also be a time for conversations — including discussions in workplaces, according to the USPS Employee Engagement team.

The group offers these tips:

• Be open. Talking about the events that led to the protests can raise uncomfortable topics, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t discuss them. The most important thing is to listen respectfully to what colleagues have to say.

• Be mindful. Recognize that some colleagues might have trouble expressing themselves, particularly if the discussion takes place through video conferencing, which can present unique communication challenges. Give these individuals time and space to share how they’re feeling, and realize that silence — while uncomfortable — can also be necessary.

• Be ready. Be prepared to commit to do what you can to help everyone be better, as individuals and as co-workers.

The Employee Engagement LiteBlue page has general guidance on conducting workplace conversations, while the Diversity and Inclusion Blue page has multicultural resources.