What Allyship Means

By Henri' Dawes

Jun 27, 2023


Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is an important holiday in the United States that commemorates the day when the last enslaved African Americans in the United States were freed. This day serves as a reminder of the importance of allyship in the African American experience. Throughout history, African Americans have relied on the support of allies to make gains in civil rights, economic justice and political representation.

To better foster allyship in the workplace and in commemoration of Juneteenth, we came together for a collaborative and interactive roundtable discussion to share how people can practice allyship in their everyday lives and share their unique experiences.

In order to become a better ally, there must be a safe environment where people can learn and communicate without fear. Listening to and learning from those who have different lived experiences is the key to understanding and empathizing with those experiences. 

It starts with good intentions. You have to want to connect. You have got to start with the desire to receive. They have to want to let you in. When you get that, you have the beginning of a great allyship.

Engaging in employee resource groups (ERGs) in the workplace, like our Freedom Riders ERG for the African American/Black community, is a perfect opportunity to expose yourself to new stories and find support. For me, healthy allyship is fostered throughout the core of Achieve’s culture through care and collaboration. I feel supported knowing that my co-workers, partners and my leadership have my back gives me more confidence to take calculated risks, be creative and let my Black girl magic light shine! The allyship has created a sense of belonging and psychological safety. I feel valued and empowered. 

Allyship does not require a full understanding of someone’s experiences. It does, however, require an openness to learning and growing. For example, if you’re a parent and your daughter is not able to express her feelings, it’s important to listen without speaking for her. Allowing her to share her experiences in her own words is a powerful way to show your allyship.

Knowing the history of Juneteenth is an important way to understand the significance of the holiday and the African American experience. Learning about history and culture helps us better understand the African American experience and become better allies. You don't have to cook soul food to be an ally. You just have to understand where it comes from.

Henri' Dawes

Vice President of DEI and Learning and Development

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