Celebrating Juneteenth with Hapi Listener — Rica Mitchell

June 17, 2022

June 19th is just around the corner, which means that it’s time to celebrate Juneteenth (a.k.a. Jubilee, Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, and Black Independence Day).

Juneteenth just became a federal holiday in 2021, but many have celebrated this day for over a century. This day is important because it represents a significant moment in United States history.

June 19th was the end of slavery, as it celebrated the freedom of the last group of enslaved African Americans in the United States.

In preparation for this holiday weekend, Hapi Listener Rica Mitchell joined us to talk about the meaning of Juneteenth, as well as Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Awareness (DEI), and the importance of community.

This coming week, Hapi is taking action by providing free Listening services to all those who want to talk about Juneteenth and the significance of DEI in your life.

Please enjoy this interview with Listener Rica Mitchell, which has been condensed and edited for publication.

HAPI: What does Juneteenth mean to you?

RICA: To me, Juneteenth is a day where I can see the pride on the faces of people who look like me. Of all the things that should probably make us frustrated, with the existence of other things, it’s a day where we can feel proud, beautiful, and colorful.

On that day, I’m always super proud to just be myself. I feel that days like these are simply reminders of why I wake up every day proud to be in my skin.

It’s more like a birthday for me. It’s a celebration.

We are happy to be alive every day, but we shine just a little bit more on this day.

That’s what Juneteenth means to me.

HAPI: How do you celebrate Juneteenth?

RICA: It depends. I have tried to go into the community for the last few years.

But with my family, we have a more intimate celebration. My mom and two of my siblings still live at my childhood home, and we celebrate by having a barbeque.

Now, I’m from Chicago, and in the summer, there are many festivals, which give us more of a reason to celebrate and feel the pride of whatever holiday it is.

But lately, Juneteenth has become more integrated into society. There will be festivals, so we’ll probably plan to go to one this weekend. It will also be Father’s Day at the same time, so it will be great to see how my family will celebrate both of these holidays over the weekend.

HAPI: DEI in the workplace is important. How can companies better recognize and celebrate Juneteenth?

RICA: For me, companies can celebrate Juneteenth as if it were any other holiday. You can pay homage without making it satire. I think many times when it comes to holidays of this nature, it’s kind of like, “Okay, how can we show things that we probably don’t already show during the year.”

If you are already diverse in how you operate your business and your company, simply acknowledging the day and giving acknowledgement to people who identify as such, in my opinion, does it justice. I’m definitely opposed to having everyone in the company show up in a kitenge cloth. Not only is it unnecessary, but it gets to the point where it is being commercialized.

As a person who celebrates Juneteenth, regardless of any company, I honestly need for it to be acknowledged in a way that is not only centered around that day.

I would like you to celebrate Juneteenth for me in a way that I see black folks in places of leadership and seeing faces that look like mine.

That shows me throughout the year that you’d truly understand why I’m celebrating that day.

HAPI: What’s the importance of community when it comes to celebrating Juneteenth?

RICA: Community is essential in all aspects. No matter who you are, if you have ever gone to a foreign place, the first person you probably looked for is someone you identified with. A community with like-minded people gets us through if we have nothing else.

It’s just super important to have like-minded, like-spirited folks around you because they understand one another. It’s almost like an underlying thing. If you are ever in a space with many unfamiliar faces and you look across and see a face that looks like yours, you smile and almost relax because it’s like, “I know you, and you know me. “

So I think the community is super important in situations like this, regardless of what you celebrate and identify as.

HAPI: What are some causes and organizations that are important to you as part of the black community?

RICA: For the most part, I’m connected to a few churches.

But I recently left my job in the Chicago public school system, where I was a teacher for six years. On my way out, even though some parts of the job were stressful, I could see that things were going towards an upward swing to opening the walls and the doors of diversity and allowing more voices to be heard and more lives to be impacted. The education system here is trying to press the limits of what diversity looks like, and what these types of celebrations look like.

Regarding Hapi Listening, I’m excited to speak with people who might need some support, who might not be in spaces to freely express themselves, or even where people can understand the feelings that come with a holiday of this nature. So I am excited to be part of the village of people who probably need some more pride.

I know that sometimes when I even express excitement for the upcoming holiday, I watch people have a sad undertone about themselves. It makes me want to give people this pride and smile I have, because I see it as such a happy time.

HAPI: How does Hapi collaborate with people to help them feel accepted and included in the community?

RICA: Hapi is already doing the work. We allow people to anonymously be heard and say the things they feel, allowing the person to start a conversation with someone from ground zero.

I’m just a person. I’m not queer. I’m not black. I’m not any of those things while I’m sitting on the other side of the phone. I’m a voice that needs a listening ear and has no preconceived notions.

Hapi, in itself, is what it is in its fiber. It allows for diversity and will enable people to be more authentic. With everything we are doing today — hearing voices, interviews, and starting a podcast — people who don’t know about the service will be able to listen to these things, and allow them to be themselves to use the service and be of service.

Some people have so much love, affection, and heart to give. People will start coming for the gift of camaraderie, the gift of partnership, and the gift of community. Hapi gives you a community without you having to take that first step.

Hapi even encourages you to take those first steps out of your comfort zone and taking action in your own life.