Eden Health joins individuals and companies nationwide in celebrating Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day. Eden will observe the festivities by making June 19th a company holiday. In commemoration of the event, we asked several members of the Eden Health team to share their personal thoughts about Juneteenth.
Dr. Rachelle Scott
As a first generation Haitian American I will admit that I was woefully unaware of Juneteenth for the first eighteen years of my life. It is not a date or a piece of history my parents were aware of and thus would have taught us. This date and its significance were never taught in my elementary school or high school. Sure, my family celebrated June 19th but that is because it happens to also be my brother’s birthday. We celebrated Haiti’s independence from France and the formation of the first country founded by former slaves but not the liberation of slaves in America. It wasn’t until I went off to college and met other black students whose family have lived in the US for generations that I came to learn and understand the significance of this date. I was embarrassed that as a woman of color I didn’t even know my history. Living in a country that values life, liberty and pursuit of happiness I find it ironic that this date which signifies when all slaves were finally emancipated and made aware of their freedom wouldn’t be more celebrated. I looked back to realize that even NY didn’t officially recognize this holiday until 2004 (I had graduated from medical school by then).
As many corporations and companies are quickly recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday and giving their employees a paid day off, some may be cynical about their intentions. I, for one, am proud to work for a company that has decided to recognize and celebrate this date. I am proud of those who advocated for it; those who educated themselves and our leadership about its significance; and lastly of my leadership team’s willingness to listen, learn and act. It provides an opportunity for all of us to learn about aspects of American history that we weren’t necessarily taught in a book or at school. Even for companies who decide not to officially recognize this holiday, I hope their leaders and employees will still take the time to listen, learn and reflect on an American holiday.
Nyala Khan – Head of People
I often define my role as an ambassador of Eden Health’s community. My goal is to provide a healthy, safe, empowering space for the members of our community to not only perform to their best ability, but also to ensure they are engaged, growing and feel a profound sense of ownership in the company.
I believe the concept of ownership can be defined and presented in a variety of ways. For me, it parallels owning a home. The house of Eden Health has a community kitchen, and shared backyard, we give each person the space to be themselves in their own rooms.
In their own rooms they get to express their skills, talent, leadership, teamwork, and individuality. In our shared spaces we strive to foster the most inclusive experience, not just for our employees but also for our customers and members. We believe we live in a house where everyone belongs.
The recent uprising and surfacing of racism (which candidly was always present but was taboo for some, or too political for the workplace), is now something the collective “we” must acknowledge and make an effort towards change. As with any home there are house rules. We are responsible—as a healthcare delivery organization, as employers, as managers, and as peers—to reject racism, which stands in the way of ensuring that everyone feels like they are living in their own home when at the House of Eden.
Adding Juneteenth to our list of company paid holidays will help us achieve fundamental steps towards our goal through awareness, acknowledgement and education.
Jason Lee, Corporate Controller
As an Asian American millennial who never lived through the Civil Rights Movement, I’ve certainly learned about our country’s dark past in school, but never truly appreciated how far we’ve come nor how much more work still needs to be done. We are a nation founded on the principles of equality, independence, and compassion, yet time and again we—as a people—know it in our hearts that we haven’t upheld those values throughout history.
But I firmly believe in progress, as a person and as a society. June 19th, 1865 was the day slaves were emancipated, and the Civil Rights movement of the 50s-60s was the force that removed protections for segregation and discrimination. Today, we are at another moment in time, fighting systemic racism across many of our most established institutions through the Black Lives Matter movement.
I couldn’t be more proud to work at a company that recognizes and honors the significance of Juneteenth and what it means not only for this country, but also for our community at Eden Health. It’s been made even more evident to me over the last few weeks that we are a single team united in our belief that racism has no place anywhere. In creating an inclusive and open environment, we can all learn and grow from each other and be even stronger advocates for change.
Having Juneteenth be an official company holiday allows us to reflect on, learn from, and celebrate the strides of black people in a hopeful effort of carrying forward those learnings to all those around us and setting an example for generations to come, just as we’re learning from this very same day 155 years ago.
Joey Leingang, VP of Engineering
Acknowledging the significance of Juneteenth and recognizing it as a company holiday is one step of many that must be taken as part of a commitment to anti-racism. I am proud to work at an organization that unequivocally says Black Lives Matter.
Makeda Sylvester, Executive Assistant to Co-Founder
Juneteenth is a historical date in Black American history; however, I’ve only known about this monumental day for a few years now. I found out about Juneteenth through my involvement in my former employer’s black Employee Resource Group. This was three years ago. Back then, it was a day my peers and I would acknowledge amongst ourselves through a private group chat, exchanging articles and having candid conversations about its importance to us. It wasn’t known or celebrated as a national holiday, nor did I think it would ever be. Instead, it was considered a “ceremonial holiday” that was swept under the rug if you weren’t black.
When I started at Eden, I expected to use a personal day to acknowledge Juneteenth in solidarity with my friends, family and former black colleagues who understood how meaningful and purposeful this day was for us. When I was about to put in my PTO request, I informed my manager that I was going to take Juneteenth off, to which he replied “What is Juneteenth?” Before I could reply, he responded after doing some quick research that this is something that the entire company needs to acknowledge and insisted on bringing it up to other members of the leadership team.
When Eden made the decision to make Juneteenth a company holiday, I couldn’t have been more thrilled, but I also had to admit that there was a personal sense of relief. I’ve worked for various organizations that have missed the mark on welcoming these conversations and taking the initiative to make a change. However, to now be a part of a community that emphasizes the importance of allyship by firmly making a commitment to research and educate about systematic racism while raising awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement has led me to feel that I’m not in this alone.
I no longer feel that I have to have these conversations in private with a few others that have always “understood” because I can now acknowledge that I work for an organization that is leaning in to actively “understand”—I am reminded everyday that Eden is working towards change by actively listening, learning, and having open discussions with their employees where their voices can be heard in a safe place. For that, I’m grateful that I am able to help make a contribution towards that change.
We hope readers will join the Eden team—and millions nationwide—in observing Juneteenth as a day not only of reflection but also of celebration. Happy Freedom Day.