On January 1, 1863, after nearly 250 years, enslaved Black Americans in Confederate States were declared legally free following the ratification of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. The night before, on December 31, many who were enslaved sat in waiting for news of their future. This night became known as “Freedom’s Eve” or “Watch Night.” The Proclamation, known as the 13th Amendment, would set in motion the abolishment of slavery and the beginning of a newfound freedom for enslaved persons across the United States. 

However, freedom and justice are often denied or delayed. On June 19, 1865, more than two years after Lincoln’s Proclamation and one year after Senate officially passed the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery on April 18, 1864, the 250,000+ enslaved people in Galveston, Texas finally received the news that they were free. This executive decree was announced by 2,000 Union troops, and the newly freed people in Texas referred to this day as “Juneteenth,” which has also been called our country’s “Second Independence Day,” “Freedom Day,” and “Emancipation Day.” June 19th would be remembered as a representation of the legacy of slavery and the ripple effects it had for black equity, freedom, and timely justice. 

Nearly 160 years later, the legacy of Juneteenth lives on through recognizing long-existing hardships faced by Black Americans, commemorating their triumphs in the face of adversity, and advocating for policies and programs that promote justice, equity, and representation. The commemoration of Juneteenth as a federal holiday was signed into legislation in 2021 by President Joe Biden.  

Citizens nationwide celebrate this historic day in a number of ways. Early celebrations included prayer, family gatherings, and annual pilgrimages to Galveston, TX by former enslaved people and their families. Galveston also hosts a re-enactment march, parade, and festival in honor of Juneteenth. There are larger celebrations held by cities throughout the country commemorating the day with activities that promote education on Black History, self-improvement, and present-day struggles for recognition and liberation including justice system reform, community policing, and combatting racism.

Social Impact (SI) recognizes that there is much work to be done to achieve fairness, justice and freedom in a number of ways. Our corporate values include acting with integrity and embracing camaraderie and belonging. We are committed to building and maintaining a people-centered organization focused on cultivating a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture. We accomplish this both in and outside of our headquarters—our values take shape in our company priorities, the work we do, and the people we work with. 

In 2021, SI spearheaded the groundbreaking Benchmarking Race Inclusion and Diversity in Global Engagement (BRIDGE) initiative to highlight diversity gaps within our sector and drive sector-wide change. SI also became a founding member of the Coalition for Racial & Ethnic Equity in Development (CREED), a coalition of leaders of US-based organizations dedicated to advancing racial and ethnic equity (REE). SI took the CREED pledge to address REE within our own organization’s policies, systems, and culture, as well as in our work. This year, Eskedar Brantley, SI’s VP of People and Culture and Chair of the DEI&B Council, shared SI’s DEI&B journey and progress over the last couple of years with members of CREED and many of our colleagues at USAID. Learn more here: https://creedinaction.org/the-pledge.

 Juneteenth is a day to closely examine our policies and programs, examine our data, and remember the US history. SI is a small part of the larger community, and we can do our part by uniting in our demands for progress. By recognizing Juneteenth and continuing to engage in dialogue to promote understanding, we hope to maintain an inclusive workplace culture that promotes diversity, equity, communication, integrity, and fairness.     


Nicoleta Leontiades is the Business Development Manager for SI’s Domestic Consulting Services (DCS) division and a member of the DEIB Council. She is helping to diversify SI’s project portfolio and is passionate about bringing about positive social change into the opportunities she identifies for DCS, ranging from providing equitable workforce opportunities to underserved communities to preventing community-based violence through evidence-informed violence intervention and prevention programs in communities across the United States.