How to Celebrate Juneteenth in Your Workplace in 2021

How We Do at Kazoo 3 min read

In quick succession in June 2020 Nike, Target, and Best Buy made Juneteenth an official company holiday. We at Kazoo were proud to join  — and if you haven’t yet, you should, too!

We wanted to share a bit more about Juneteenth, why we made it a company holiday at Kazoo, and the power your company holiday calendar has to create a truly inclusive culture.

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is an American holiday celebrated annually on June 19 that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

On June 19, 1865, Union general Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas with the federal orders that all previously enslaved people in Texas were now free. Though the Emancipation Proclamation had formally freed slaves in America two years earlier, Texas was the most remote of the slave states. So about 250,000 people remained slaves in Texas until Granger carried the orders to Galveston in 1865, finally ending slavery in the U.S.

Today, the holiday is celebrated in cities across the United States with activities as diverse as readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, street fairs, rodeos, cookouts, reading the work of influential Black American writers, and more.

Why did we make Juneteenth a company holiday?

Though Juneteenth is relatively new to Kazoo’s holiday calendar, to CEO Paul Pellman, this isn’t really a change. It’s just reaffirming what our company already believes in.

So this is an opportunity — via company policy — to put those beliefs into action.

“In some ways, companies can kind of take a pass by having an open door vacation policy. Because then it’s easy to say, ‘If there’s a day or holiday that’s important to you, just take it off,’” Paul said. “But to officially create a paid holiday sends a signal that we’re observing something important to members of our community — and therefore, to all of us.”

Kazoo’s rock star People & Culture team (the same folks who created our amazing Pride cultural calendar) had thrown themselves into planning a Juneteenth event. But as their conversations with leadership progressed, it became increasingly clear that the day was bigger than that.

“The magnitude and importance of Juneteenth became so obvious, we knew this holiday had to become part of our DNA as a company,” said Dania Shaheen, Kazoo’s SVP of Customer & Business Operations.

In his official announcement to the company, Paul noted, “By giving everyone the day off on Friday, we want to ensure you not only have the time to celebrate, but we also hope you use it as an opportunity to learn more about the holiday and why it’s so important to our country.”

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How you can celebrate Juneteenth at your company

Make it a paid holiday

It can be complicated to create new company holidays, especially at the last minute. But it counts.

Company calendars, policies and holidays set the tone for creating an inclusive company culture. These things show your employees that you recognize diversity in your workplace and you are committed to having an inclusive culture,” Dania said.

Educate yourself

Read up on the history of the holiday and learn why it’s important to the Black community. Not sure where to start? Try this high-level guide from the New York Times, and this video tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Slavery & Freedom, 1400-1877.

Important: Don’t ask your Black employees to educate you or your coworkers. It’s tokenizing, and a form of unpaid emotional labor.

Celebrate Black music, food, and culture

When we’re back in the offices, our celebrations will look a little different. But for the pandemic era, our awesome People & Culture team put together a roster of incredible virtual events for Kazooligans to celebrate and get educated. Share them with your team!


Wednesday, June 16, 2021

6 p.m. CDT  Juneteenth: A Story of Freedom (virtual program by the North Carolina Museum of History via Eventbrite)

Saturday, June 19, 2021

10 a.m. CDT 2021 Virtual Juneteenth Celebration, presented by Zeta Phi Beta (via Eventbrite)

6 p.m. CDT Juneteenth Virtual Fireside Chat and Cooking Demonstration with James Beard Award-winning chef and author Bryant Terry (via Eventbrite)

7 p.m. CDT Understanding Juneteenth: An Online Presentation, presented by Melaneyes Media (via Eventbrite)

All day: Virtual tour of the “Slavery and Freedom: 1400-1877” exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (presented by co-curator Mary Elliott, via CSPAN)


Friday, June 18 – Sunday, June 20

All day: Black Art Weekend (via Eventbrite)

Saturday, June 19

Noon CDT Noir Creator Space Open Market (via Eventbrite)

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2021 Workplace Inclusivity Calendar

Find Juneteenth and other important holidays on our Diversity and Inclusivity Calendar

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Take your DE&I initiatives further

As Paul says, “Look, your actions, but also your inactions, make a statement. Making Juneteenth a company holiday is one of those opportunities to back up your talk with action.”

We at Kazoo, the Employee Experience Platform, are deeply proud of this action, and the belief behind it. We continue to look for ways to improve our diversity, inclusion, and belonging initiatives. There’s a long road ahead. It’s past time we all get started.

Because at Kazoo, we’re passionate about bringing together all the tools you need to make work work better for everyone. That’s why the Kazoo Employee Experience Platform brings performance management and recognition and rewards — including Goals, Feedback, Conversations, Recognition, Incentives, and more — into one simple, easy-to-use platform.

If you’re ready to align, connect, and engage your workplace, check out our Kazoo overview. Or, schedule a personalized demo today.

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