What Juneteenth means to Hiscox
“Young and old, dressed as well as they could be dressed, crowding the streets, music in the background. That’s what Juneteenth means to us.”
Dr. Leroy Nunery II told a group of Hiscox employees during a Juneteenth event. “Let’s lead the parade. Let’s lead something we know is right to do.”
The virtual event titled “Where Do We Go From Here?” centered around the continued racial and social injustices happening today and what actions are needed to create the necessary changes.
The event, hosted by the Hiscox Pan-African Employee network, featured speakers Dr. Leroy Nunery II and Dr. Isaiah Pickens.
Dr. Nunery has been a long-time friend and colleague to Hiscox. He spoke at Hiscox in 2019 to discuss African Americans’ early involvement in the insurance industry and helped develop the Hiscox Diversity & Inclusion survey that asked employees how they feel Hiscox is doing in its attempts to create an inclusive workplace. Dr. Nunery is the Founder and CEO of Plūs Ultré LLC, which provides consulting services to school districts, charter schools, non-profits, and entrepreneurs.
Dr. Isaiah Pickens is a licensed psychologist and founder of IOpening Enterprises, which seeks to “transform the way you see the world,” by providing science-based professional development training.
Both brought distinct perspectives to the conversation around how we can all be a voice of change and address systemic racism. Here’s a taste of what they had to say.
The relevance of Juneteenth
It took almost a century for African Americans to gain their freedom after American independence Day when supposedly the nation and its people gained their freedom from the British monarch. But this did not include Black people. Then, after the emancipation proclamation was signed, it took two years for 250,000 enslaved Black people in Texas to hear the news. That happened on June 19, 1865, and is now celebrated on that day each year as Juneteenth, a portmanteau of ‘June’ and ‘nineteenth.’
The significance of this event was deeply felt and it taught a hard lesson to African Americans – a lesson that still endures today.
As Dr. Nunery explained, “There is a significance in not getting the memo. You can think that you are free, but without access, without being informed, you toil under a labored impression.”
“The law may change, but biases, prejudices, assumptions, and behaviors remain the same.”
For this reason, Juneteenth should be celebrated not just in Black communities, but across the country and in our organizations. It’s a crucial step to reconciling the injustices of the past.
In the second half of the event, Hiscox employees heard from Dr. Isaiah Pickens on the psychological impacts of inequity in America. Key to this discussion is something called “psychological safety,” which is “the belief that I have the ability to manage the stress that’s happening around me or to reach out to somebody to help me manage that stress or deal with the needs that I have,” Dr. Pickens explained.
Psychological safety is shaped by the experiences we’ve had in the past. “If we look at the history and experiences of Black people as they’ve navigated this world, and particularly in the United States, there’s been an unflinching experience of having or not having psychological safety," Dr. Pickens explained. "What happens when you don’t feel like you’re psychologically safe is you always act to protect yourself.”
The second component that shapes psychological safety is the weight of trauma, whether that be historical or intergenerational trauma. Dr. Pickens described this as “the experiences that people of color continued to experience, such as redlining that happened in the fifties and sixties where Black people were actually not allowed to purchase [homes] in communities or get loans; such as the education system that Black people didn’t have access to – constantly getting the second-hand books of white students or not being allowed to go to school at all.”
All of these aggressions over the decades weigh down on a community and create a kind of tension and anxiety that they have to live with every day.
What is an equitable workplace?
With the knowledge of how psychological safety and the impact of historical trauma has on communities of color, Dr. Pickens posed the question, “How do you as an organization begin to think about the ways we can restore psychological safety within the African American community and better understand all of our roles in building an anti-racist society and practices and actively try to remove it from our system?”
As we learned, it starts with giving people what they need to succeed based on their experiences and history as a people. It’s not enough to give everyone equal opportunity – it is equity that addresses the impacts of psychological trauma and creates an even playing ground. As Dr. Pickens puts it, “a system that allows everyone to breathe.”
Our work with leaders like Dr. Nunery and Dr. Pickens is far from over as Hiscox continues to look for ways to ensure a diverse and inclusive workforce and commit our voice to promoting social and racial equality and justice. Learn more here.
For more information on ways to be a voice of change and help propel the Black Lives Matter movement forward, here are some organizations to support and learn from.