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Why We Believe Juneteenth Is More Than A Day Off

In January 2016 I joined the Kapor Center here in Oakland as the head of People Operations. It was an important year for the organization on many levels (lots of growth, moved into our new office), but also a year of much sadness and uncertainty in the world. From the disappointing (Warriors blow the 3–1 lead), to the sad deaths of legends (Bowie, Prince, Ali), to horrific terrorism (Nice, France and Pulse Nightclub) — 2016 kept coming.

And then the unthinkable: Trump was elected.

As a majority Black and Brown organization, most of us knew what this signaled. Still, few of us could have seen what was to come in 2020.

Already struggling to assess how to operate and care for staff in the midst of a global pandemic, the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and then George Floyd galvanized the nation and racism bumped Covid-19 from the top of the Twitter feed. Collectively, we knew that our recognition of Juneteenth must be different this year.

We’ve already seen a swell of companies acknowledging Juneteenth as an official company holiday. As an organization whose core values include We Lead with Racial Justice and Reflect the Communities We Serve it was important for us to also acknowledge Juneteenth 2020 as an office holiday, but not just another day off.

Our goal is to offer staff guidance on how to make the time off impactful, educational, meaningful and ensure it doesn’t become a summer version of an MLK-Day “ski weekend.”

Here’s what we’re encouraging staff to do:

Reclaim Black Friday

Danielle Rose, Chief Programs Officer of our education organization, SMASH, suggested the idea to see Juneteenth as an opportunity to “reclaim Black Friday”, through economic action in support of Black businesses.

  • We encouraged staff to spend money at Black-owned businesses over the weekend of June 19 -21. This will be a boon and boost to the Black Economy. The purchasing power of the Black diaspora is often referenced broadly in the media, but we have yet to see significant investment in Black ventures. Here is an opportunity, a start, to bring economic justice to the Black community.
  • We provided links to what and where the Black-owned businesses are (here or download this app) and asked staff to log it into a spreadsheet that we will then track.
  • We will tally up our total investment. Once the weekend is completed, we’ll ask staff to submit their weekend purchases into a spreadsheet so we can tally up how much we all invested into the Black community. #buyblack

A Day of Service

We are also encouraging all Kapor Center staff to use Juneteenth as a day of service in the Black community. Potential engagement includes volunteering, civic engagement opportunities at the local, state and national level, or making a monetary donation.

Yes, Juneteenth is just one day, and we have yet to see how the nation will respond to the injustices in the months and years to come. Here’s to hoping the actions that we take this Juneteenth can be a catalyst for sustainable change… and action. What are you, your organization doing to make Juneteenth the holiday for which it was purposed — a day to measure the progress of Black Americans against true freedom and equality? Share with us.