The official name of this government holiday is Juneteenth. Juneteenth National Independence Day also known under the names Emancipation Day. Jubilee Day. Black Independence Day. Juneteenth Independence Day.
What is Juneteenth and how does it work?
The Emancipation Proclamation was not intended to abolish slavery. The Civil War ended but slavery remained. A Union commander in Texas issued an instruction on June 19,1865. It is still celebrated each year. This year is however different than the others.
Breonna Taylor’s assassination sparked weeks worth of protests against police violence, systemic racism and white supremacy. Ahmaud Abery and George Floyd both committed murders which seemed to awaken the world to the fact that slavery may have ended 1865, but its legacy lives on.
From slavery to Jim Crow to mass prisoneration, Racism and state sponsored anti-Black and Brown violence existed.
Juneteenth, currently a federal holiday commemorating the end slavery, celebrates the day Texas’ enslaved discovered their freedom. This was due to increased support by the American public for this day of reflection and celebration.
There is still much variation in the way people celebrate the event.
Some government agencies remain open despite a short notice
It was a challenge for the courts and administrative office to quickly implement a new federal holiday. They generally observe national holidays. However the results were mixed.
Numerous government offices considered “non essential” were forced to close. The United States Postal Service maintained its openness, expressing support for this holiday, but not stating that it would be possible to stop the activities of their Postal Service. This was due to the fact that they had only 24 hours to prepare.
Some federal courts were temporarily closed, but not all.
Schools that are used to federal holidays were faced with similar decisions. They had to decide whether to keep their doors open on Fridays or close them, often without warning to students or their families. There was no clear strategy. Schools closed in Baltimore City and schools remained open in Baltimore County.
Businesses and non-governmental organizations are not required to close. Some had to decide quickly whether or not they would pivot.
It is not mandatory that businesses observe federal holidays in the United States. Only a small number of companies, however, were able to quickly respect the holiday, even with less than 24 hours notice.
Stanley Black & Decker informed the public late Thursday night that it would close Friday due to “hope & recovery” and would observe a new federal holiday in time.
Some others, however, kept to their original plans. They claimed it was too difficult to make a day without warning.
Alesia Jones of University of Alabama Birmingham Human Resources, stated that there wasn’t enough time to plan, prepare, and properly implement the holiday.
Jones expressed delight (and surprise!) at the speed that the federal government, the state of Alabama and established the new holiday. A significant research institute or hospital being shut down without notice is not productive. She stated that university staff are committed to the holiday and are working on future plans. Many others had already made plans in advance to mark Juneteenth.
Many companies have already planned to observe the holiday. Some companies have started this tradition last year after the assassination George Floyd. These business initiatives receive mixed reactions. Some view them as hollow symbolism while others embrace them as a positive move forward and an indication of inclusivity and concern for racial concerns.
A Mercer survey conducted on June 3 revealed that 9% percent of surveyed employers intended to celebrate Juneteenth 2021 as a holiday. This figure is similar to the percentage for Columbus Day/Indigenous People’s Day (a long-standing federal holiday).
Nike, for example, has to close its retail outlets because of the Juneteenth celebrations. Starbucks and Best Buy have other stores that will remain open. However, employees will be paid more to work.
Other businesses claim they are honoring Juneteenth while not actually doing so. Google is encouraging employees instead of taking the day, to cancel meetings. AT&T organized internal celebrations for the holiday and encouraged employees taking advantage of vacation time.
Rosa Nunez from Foley Hoag’s diversity, equity, inclusion and diversity director, says that nodding at holiday without paid leave, is insufficient.
Nunez says, “It should also be a pay holiday and not just added to your schedule.” Nunez’s organization started Juneteenth as an annual paid day off. To make an impact, your work must be meaningful.
In the coming years, more workplaces might observe the holiday.
Many businesses, which had refused to honor the holiday previously, may reconsider this year after it has been declared a public holiday.
Large banks have indicated they will celebrate the holiday next years and will offer employees a floating day off. Stock exchanges should remain open for the remainder, but they may close down in the future.
While the event is not being celebrated by many other groups, they have said that they intend to do so in years to come.
Jones said that the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s top executives have pledged to recognize the holiday in future. But details are still being worked on. She adds that she is not certain if it would happen if the state or federal governments hadn’t recognized it.
Nunez says Juneteenth is just one example of the many actions corporations can take in order to reach greater equity and equality. Nunez believes that although most employers do not have to observe this federal holiday, it will encourage some.
She said, “The recognition the stain and slavery in the United States, and the work that must be done — I mean. It should be followed, by many, multiple organizations.” “The private industry doesn’t have the responsibility to follow the government. It’s just right to do so.