Executive Insights

Celebrating Juneteenth: A Symbol of Hope, Diversity, and Progress

By Gilma Saravia | Chief People Officer | June 20, 2022

On June 19, those of us in the U.S. celebrate Juneteenth – sometimes also called Jubilee Day or Emancipation Day – which is a holiday that commemorates the day the final enslaved people in the formerly-Confederate states were notified they were free citizens. Despite Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, the final enslaved people weren’t officially free until Union general Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3 on June 19, 1865, which enforced the end of slavery in the State of Texas. Later that year, on December 6, the U.S. ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished chattel slavery nationwide. Many people in the U.S. have celebrated Juneteenth since its inception, and the day became an official national holiday last year, becoming the first national holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was adopted in 1983. 

Juneteenth has a rich history and tradition around the country, and is a national symbol of hope, resolve, and justice. Juneteenth is also a very special day for those of us at Altair, because it’s the day the Altair Black Employee Resource Network (ABERN) was founded two years ago. ABERN is one of our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) whose work is redefining the way Altair colleagues embrace an open dialogue around race and equality and collaborate in support of racial justice initiatives. 

ABERN was founded on Juneteenth of 2020 in direct response to a call to action by our CEO Jim Scapa, and as a way for Altair colleagues to effect change. Led by some of Altair’s most prominent Black employees, the group hosts town halls, book clubs, and other activities that educate colleagues, support diversity, inclusion, and validation, and has expanded Altair’s volunteer support in the local communities of Detroit, Michigan and Boston, Massachusetts. And since its inception, I have been blown away by what ABERN and its members have accomplished. On its second anniversary, I’m ecstatic to celebrate ABERN and its members for their vision, efforts, and outcomes.

ABERN has also taken a leading role in the local community near our Troy, Mich. headquarters. To foster local students’ STEM-related education and training, it has established a marvelous relationship with the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP). DAPCEP is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase the number of historically underrepresented students who are prepared to pursue STEM degrees and careers. Together with DAPCEP, ABERN has given local students access to technology, training, and mentorship. ABERN has also sponsored DAPCEP events, including an upcoming event in November at the University of Massachusetts Lowell that will feature speakers and presentations from some of the world’s leading companies and universities, including global powerhouses like GE. The event will help students and their families get an in-depth, hands-on look at careers and pathways in STEM, and will be an invaluable way for today’s students to see how they can craft a fulfilling, impactful career.

Although ABERN has done marvelous things from a group level, the work of this team I cherish most are the connections and relationships they strengthen on an individual level. For example, one of ABERN’s co-founders has become a mentor to one of our newest interns, a student from Columbia University who is from Nigeria – who is working remotely from the country. Another ABERN member has mentored a student from a Detroit-area high school for nearly a year, giving him advice on higher education, training, technology, and more. These are the types of connections that separate ABERN from similar groups within other organizations, and ways Altair can make an impact not just within our organization and among industry professionals, but within our community and with the future generations of innovators. As one of ABERN’s members put it to me as we spoke recently, “There’s no greater mission in life than changing lives.” That statement sums up what we want Altair to be all about – transforming lives to make a positive impact in the world.

ABERN’s success and the credit for these achievements lies directly with its incredible members. They are bold and committed to making a change – their amazing work has pushed me to consider what I can strive to improve on in my role to further Altair’s diversity, inclusion, and equity efforts. My top priorities include:

  • Fostering diversity in hiring and retention;
  • Championing and supporting development and retention initiatives for Black employees, and
  • Continuing our movement to attract diverse university interns that represent a range of backgrounds and identities that reflect the talented classes of students in both STEM and non-STEM fields worldwide 

Continuous evaluation is the key to improving how I work to further these efforts – I accept the challenge to get better!

This Juneteenth, I want to celebrate all our ABERN members for embodying not just Altair’s values, but the promises of Juneteenth itself – a commitment to hope, action, and a better future for all. ABERN’s success means success for all, and I cannot wait to see what the group’s future has in store. Happy Juneteenth to all, and may we continue forging a better future together.