Protests have continued around the country demanding justice for Black individuals who’ve died at the hands of police, namely George Floyd, Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade, among others. In light of those lost and in observance of a greater struggle for racial equality, many tech companies are choosing to observe Juneteenth as an official holiday and provide their employees with paid time off.
While activists are currently petitioning the United States Congress to recognize the celebration as a national holiday, Oakland-based collective Hella Creative is leading a push for companies to observe the holiday first, in hopes that the U.S. will soon follow suit.
Earlier this month, the collective launched a website called #HellaJuneteenth. The website is packed with resources, such as letter templates, aimed at helping workers urge their employers to recognize the day as a company holiday. As of Wednesday, 375 businesses had signed on to officially observe the holiday under the Oakland collective’s initiative.
Miles Dotson, co-founder of Hella Creative, described the significance of this moment in a statement reported by Fast Company.
“This is a moment for everyone, all companies that employ people, especially people of color,” Dotson said. “It’s important companies stand in solidarity with their employee base.”
In a statement on the initiative’s website, the collective said the push is one of solidarity with their ancestors, adding that “it’s only right that we declare this to be a day free of labor.”
“We’re done asking for permission to celebrate what’s rightfully ours,” the statement continues. “American society uses holidays for its economic benefit. Time is up. Society must reconcile and address the economic damage from our past.”
The initiative got a significant boost when Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and Square, linked to the #HellaJuneteenth website as part of his announcement that his companies would be adding Juneteenth to its company-recognized holidays.
“Countries and regions around the world have their own days to celebrate emancipation, and we will do the work to make those dates company holidays everywhere we are present,” Dorsey said in a Twitter thread.
After Dorsey’s announcement, traffic to the website surged and tech companies by the dozens, including Adobe, Lyft, MasterCard, Postmates and Spotify, among others, all signed on to the initiative as well.
“It spread like wildfire, it was insane,” Dotson said in an interview with Protocol.
Juneteenth marks the official end of slavery in the Confederate South and, by extension, the U.S. Although the Emancipation Proclamation formally ended slavery in 1863, many rural southern states, namely Texas, continued slave operations with little to no supervision or intervention from Union troops. On June 19, 1865, Union army general Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, with reinforcements and issued federal orders that proclaimed that all 250,000 slaves in the state of Texas were officially free.