What Tech Companies Are Doing to Celebrate Juneteenth
This Friday, June 19, many tech companies will commemorate Juneteenth, theholiday celebrating the end of slavery in the U.S. Due to a surge in supportfor the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-racism efforts, Juneteenth isfinally getting widespread recognition — especially in the tech world.Here is what Big Tech is doing to honor the holiday.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is this Friday, June 19, and celebrates the day that news of theCivil War’s end reached Texas, making all enslaved African Americans free.While the Emancipation Proclamation was signed into law on January 1, 1863, itwasn’t until June 19, 1865, that the news finally reached the last Confederatestate following the end of the war.Though 47 states and Washington, D.C. have made Juneteenth an official stateholiday, it wasn’t until this year that it was recognized as a federalholiday. The legislation was signed just in time, with immediate effect.The mass publicity the holiday is getting is a direct result of the widespreadprotests against racism and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’skilling by Minneapolis police officers. Many companies have also pledged tomake the day an official company holiday, some for the first time, whileothers are encouraging employees to take the day to learn and educatethemselves about the holiday.
Who is celebrating Juneteenth?
The website HellaJuneteenth encourages more U.S. employers to take the day offto learn, donate, and support the Black community. The site offers a list ofevents around the country to participate in, as well as encourages people touse the hashtag
hellajuneteenth to show solidarity in taking the day off.
Here’s a running list of tech companies that have publicly committed toobserving or commemorating Juneteenth:Twitter and SquareTwitter was one of the first big tech companies to support Juneteenthpublicly. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted the following on June 9: “BothTwitter and Square are making
Juneteenth (June 19th) a company holiday in the
U.S., forevermore. A day for celebration, education, and connection.”Employees at Twitter and Square have the day off.LyftThe ridesharing app announced Juneteenth as a companywide holiday, tweeting:“We celebrate Juneteenth because Black lives matter.”PostmatesEmployees at Postmates have the day off on Friday, June 19, in observance ofJuneteenth. CEO Bastin Lehmann said that Juneteenth will be a permanentcompany holiday.VSCOVSCO announced a companywide holiday for Juneteenth.AdobeAdobe told employees they would have June 19 off as a day “to focus onreflection and advocacy.”EventbriteEventbrite employees also have the day off. “We are committed to racialjustice, supporting the global Black Lives Matter movement, and stand insolidarity with our Black Britelings and creators everywhere,” the companysaid in a tweet.SpotifyNot only is Spotify making Juneteenth a company holiday, but the musicstreaming service pledged to exclusively feature Black artists from June 19 to26 for its New Music Friday playlist.GoProAll full-time U.S. employees have the day off to “listen, learn, share, andreflect.”GrubhubThe Chicago-based food delivery service is giving its full-time employees theday off. Delivery drivers, who are contractors, will still work on Friday.TikTokTikTok has officially made Juneteenth a company holiday.NetflixThe streaming service has curated a “More than a Movement” playlist of movieand TV titles about the Black experience. The new category can be found underNetflix’s “Genre” tab.FacebookFacebook has pledging to donate $19 for every user who creates a Juneteenthfundraiser on Facebook. The company will continue donating up to $5 million oruntil June 20. The company also told its employees to cancel all meetings andcommemorate Juneteenth “with a day of learning.”AmazonAmazon CEO Jeff Bezos encouraged employees to cancel meetings on Friday inhonor of Juneteenth. Instead of making it a company holiday, the retail techgiant will offer its employees a “range of online learning opportunities” onFriday.GoogleGoogle added Juneteenth as an official U.S. holiday to its Google Calendar andinstructed employees to cancel any meetings.
How Companies Celebrate Juneteenth 2020: Amazon, Twitter, Target, MoreAbout a dozen companies have announced special plans to celebrate theJuneteenth this year. Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty ImagesAs the
BlackLivesMatter movement continues to change the national dialogue, a
growing number of major companies are observing Juneteenth (June 19), the daycommemorating the end of slavery in America, this year by canceling meetings,giving employees the day off and making it an annual company holiday.About a dozen tech companies, including Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Twitter,and Spotify, have announced special plans for the day.Twitter and Square, both headed by Jack Dorsey, were the first to declareJuneteenth as a permanent company holiday. “A day for celebration, education,and connection,” Dorsey said in a tweet last Tuesday. “Countries and regionsaround the world have their own days to celebrate emancipation and we will dothe work to make those dates company holidays everywhere we are present.”Other companies quickly followed the suit. Spotify, Lyft, Postmates, Nike, VoxMedia and Adobe, among others, announced that Juneteenth will be an annualcompany holiday in the same week. Larger companies, including Microsoft,Facebook and Google, have yet to recognize the day as a paid holiday but planto cancel all company meetings to give employees time to “listen, learn andengage” on the topic of racial justice.This week, Target and Amazon became the latest companies to join the crowd.On Monday, Target announced that its corporate headquarters will be closed inobservance of Juneteenth and eligible employees have the option to take theday off. Hourly store workers who work that day will be paid time and a half.On Tuesday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in an internal email that he’scanceling all meetings this Friday and encourages everyone to do the same anduse the day to “reflect, learn and support each other.”Bezos’ letter came after some of his top lieutenants, including Amazon retailhead Jeff Wilke and hardware chief Dave Limp, addressed racial issues withintheir own teams. In a pair of internal emails, seen by Business Insider, lastweek, Wilke said the protests spurred by the murder of George Floyd hadchanged how he thinks about “the systemic problem that has persisted forcenturies in the U.S.,” while Limp, whose wife and children are Black, said hehad found it “incredibly difficult and heartbreaking to discuss” recent eventswith his family members.Companies that don’t want to put business on pause on Juneteenth haveannounced other plans to observe the festival. Nike’s rival, Adidas, forexample, has pledged to increase racial diversity in its workforce, promisingto fill at least 30 percent of its open positions with Black or Latinxworkers.Some of these companies’ moves were in direct response to President DonaldTrump’s announcement last week that he would return to the campaign trail witha
MAGA Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 19. Pressured by criticism over him
hosting a Republican rally on the Juneteenth, the President later rescheduledthe event to the next day, June 20.“Many of my African American friends and supporters have reached out tosuggest that we consider changing the date out of respect for this holiday andin observance of this important occasion and all that it represents,” he saidin a tweet last Friday.Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Jubilee Day, is the oldest Americanfestival celebrating the end of slavery in this country. It commemorates June19, 1865 when the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared the freedom of allenslaved African Americans in the U.S., was read in Galveston, Texas.One Day Off: How Some Big Tech Companies are Observing JuneteenthAs of June 17, Juneteenth is now a national holiday. One year ago, thatstatement seemed far-fetched, but today, most federal employees are off workin observance of the day when enslaved Texans in Galveston learned of theirfreedom, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was madeeffective.However, private companies are not obligated to observe federal holidays, andin the case of Juneteenth, it was only last year that big tech companiesreally began to acknowledge it. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, agroup of creatives, technologists and artists at Hella Creative started acampaign to educate and push companies to observe the holiday by giving theiremployees the day off. It eventually got a major signal boost from Twitter’sCEO Jack Dorsey.“Jack posted that Twitter would be acknowledging and honoring Juneteenth as aday off,” Miles Dotson, one of the founders of Hella Creative, told The Plug.“After that, it was a tidal wave.”To date, more than 800 companies have joined the initiative and committed toobserve Juneteenth. This year, some of America’s biggest tech companies aregiving their workers a day off while others are hosting conversationsfeaturing people like Tina Knowles-Lawson, Erykah Badu and Dr. Henry LouisGates.This is how seven companies are observing the holiday:AppleApple recognizes Juneteenth as a company holiday and is giving their employeesthe day off on Friday, June 18. Additionally, Apple recently announced a $5million grant to support engineering schools at four HBCUs: Alabama A&MUniversity, Howard University, Morgan State University and Prairie View A&MUniversity; the money will be split evenly among the schools. In January, thecompany also announced the launch of Propel Center, a partnership withnonprofit Ed Farm designed to build a hub for leadership and careerdevelopment for HBCUs, expected to break ground in Atlanta this fall.FacebookEmployees at Facebook are free to take a paid day off on Friday, June 18, butit is not a company holiday. The company says they are hosting a “day oflearning” which includes discussions with renowned scholar Dr. Henry LouisGates, Tina Knowles-Lawson and more. This week, the company has also beenhighlighting Black-owned businesses in Galveston, Texas, on their platform.TwitterLast year, Twitter officially made Juneteenth a company holiday and gaveemployees the day off; the company will again observe the holiday this year..They have also created custom emojis for
MicrosoftThe company will not be offering employees a day off, but instead will host aday of “exploration, learning, and engagement” on June 21.“Our approach is not to offer a vacation day; but instead use this day tocreate time and space for employees to better understand critical topicsrelated to race, ethnicity and racial injustice,” Lindsay-Rae McIntyre,Microsoft’s Chief Diversity Officer, said in a statement. She did not clarifyif any events were planned for employees.A recent report by Fast Company, in collaboration with The Plug, found that,of all tech giants, Microsoft had committed the most money in the past year todiversity, equity and inclusion efforts, but the total amount of moneyinvested was equivalent to just five days of profit.NetflixThe company says it does not have any set holidays, including Christmas or NewYear’s, and Juneteenth is not observed.GoogleGoogle is not giving employees the day off but has instituted a no-meetingsday on June 18, encouraging them to use it for celebration, learning andreflection. The company is hosting a two-hour company event featuring aconversation and performance by Erykah Badu. They also recently announced ten$5 million unrestricted grants to the HBCUs that are part of its Pathways toTech initiative.AmazonAmazon is not giving employees the day off, but is hosting educational panelsabout the holiday and an exclusive performance by Alvin Ailey dancers. Theyalso said they are a sponsor of the livestream concert Juneteenth Unityfestand Blk Freedom’s 2021 Virtual Museum Experience featuring 10 African Americanhistory museums.