U.S. President Joe Biden is applauded as he holds the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act during a signing ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, June 17, 2021.
Carlos Barria | Reuters
Big tech companies will observe Juneteenth by offering education resources during the week of the newly official U.S. holiday.
President Joe Biden signed a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday on Thursday afternoon. The holiday, which lands on June 19 every year, commemorates the ending of slavery in the U.S.
Tech companies’ reactions come after a year of racial reckoning and increased scrutiny of recruiting practices and treatment of Black employees. Some, like Twitter and Square, began recognizing the holiday last year.
“Juneteenth is not just about Black History—it is American history” and a “complex” one, said Tiffany Bowden, program manager on Amazon‘s Global Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team, in a company Juneteenth blog post. Bowden holds a Ph.D. in communications with a specialization in diversity and inclusion.
“While rejoicing in progress, we must continue to educate ourselves about our history to help guide our future,” the Amazon blog stated. “We honor those who fought, endured, and continue to persevere in the fight for equality. We celebrate with the awareness that advocacy is still necessary in America’s pursuit of equality and, ultimately, equity.”
To commemorate Juneteenth, Google has “instituted a no meetings day” on Friday June 18, and is “encouraging all Googlers to use this day for celebration, learning and reflection,” according to a spokesperson.
Facebook said its workers can use one of their paid “Personal Choice Days” if they want to celebrate the holiday. Employees can also participate in “a day of discussions” with known activists and public figures, including Henry Louis Gates and Tina Knowles-Lawson “who will share perspectives on the history and significance of Juneteenth.”
“A lot of meetings have been canceled so folks can go to that,” a Facebook spokesperson added.
Apple said it recognizes Juneteenth as a company holiday in the U.S. and gives employees the day off to observe on Friday, June 18. Apple Retail and AppleCare will remain open to support customers. The company said employees can participate in weeklong events that are “designed to educate, build community, and celebrate.”
Black storytelling and education
Companies will also provide educational material on racial injustice to employees.
“Our approach is not to offer a vacation day; but instead use this day to create time and space for employees to better understand critical topics related to race, ethnicity and racial injustice,” said Lindsay-Rae McIntyre, Microsoft’s chief diversity officer. “Recognizing this day with intention allows us to stay connected to the many challenges unresolved, violence unaddressed, and inequities unchanged for the Black and African American community worldwide.”
Microsoft did not specify what learning programs will be offered.
Google said it’s going to host a two-hour event “spotlighting Black music history and storytelling” including a conversation and performance by Erykah Badu.
Amazon’s programming includes educational panels regarding the origins and importance of Juneteenth, remarks from Black history experts, and a performance and Q&A with African American New York dance studio the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Facebook said it will feature a video by businesswoman (and mother to Beyonce) Tina Knowles-Lawson and a “Lift Black Voices Hub” that includes a curated mix of fundraisers, educational resources and “content that showcases how communities are reimagining Black freedom on Facebook platforms every day.”
Amazon will sponsor an inaugural celebration called Juneteenth Unityfest. Its bookstore will highlight a selection of books that show the history of Juneteenth in a feature called “Celebrate Juneteenth.” It also said Prime Video has a curated selection of movies and series to acknowledge and honor Juneteenth.
Watch now: President Biden signs Juneteenth National Independence Day Act