Why We Made Juneteenth a Company Holiday

In the past week, Nike, Target, and Best Buy have made Juneteenth an official company holiday. We at Kazoo are proud to join them — and 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 brand 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.

And it’s given us 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

Creating new company holidays, especially at the last minute, can be complicated (as HR professionals at the many companies choosing to observe Juneteenth for the first time this year can attest). 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.

Get educated

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!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

10 a.m. Virtual Juneteenth Music Festival

3 p.m. Cooking with Salina (Zoom & Facebook Live)

 

Friday, June 19, 2020

1 p.m. Music to Celebrate Our Ancestors (Zoom & Facebook Live)

6 p.m. Juneteenth 2020: Stay Black and Live

7 p.m. Songs that Feed the Soul (Zoom & Facebook Live)

 

Saturday, June 20, 2020

10 a.m. The Diet of our Ancestors: What History and Science Reveals (Zoom panel)


Create welcoming workplaces year-round:

2020 Workplace Inclusivity Calendar

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Take your D&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.

What’s Kazoo? Kazoo is an employee experience platform — a simple software that combines performance management (like goal-setting, feedback, and check-ins) with recognition and rewards and surveys to drive engagement, productivity, alignment, and job satisfaction. We may be biased, but we like it a lot. Find out how we can boost the employee experience at your company.

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