Best Buy employees share what Juneteenth means to them
Best Buy employees share what Juneteenth means to themPublished 06/14/2021
KATIE KORANDA - STAFF WRITER
Best Buy is proud to recognize Juneteenth’s significance by observing it as a paid company holiday starting this year. The corporate office will be closed on Friday, June 18, and all full-time and part-time employees who work on June 19 will be paid time and a half.
Additionally, we are providing information for employees about local community-led celebrations, educational resources and volunteer opportunities. We’re also matching 100% of any one-time donation an employee makes to a nonprofit organization of their choice on June 19.
“Juneteenth has long been an important day for the Black American community, but it hasn’t had the awareness or recognition it deserves among other holidays we celebrate,” said Mark Irvin, our chief inclusion, diversity and talent officer. “With this in mind, it’s really important for us to recognize its significance with our employees and offer them an opportunity to celebrate, reflect or give back.”
We reached out to some employees to hear what Juneteenth means to them and how they plan to observe the day.
Celebrating Black culture
For James McCall, a care manager for Best Buy Health, Juneteenth is a special holiday because his parents instilled the love and pride of being Black. Now, he’s passing that on to his children.
The family watches a documentary that reminds them of the journey Black Americans have taken and are still on.
“Juneteenth means so much to me as it is the ending point of one of the most horrific times in American history as well as the beginning point of opportunity for Black people in this country,” he said. “It is a time for all of us to reflect on the struggle Black Americans have experienced and the progress we have made thus far.”
James has fond memories of celebrating Juneteenth growing up, and while he won’t attend any in-person events this year, he’s looking forward to attending a virtual celebration of Black culture in America.
Human resources business partner Tiffany Williams is excited to host a backyard cookout with friends and family.
“We are going to gather to celebrate every definition of freedom that we have ever taken for granted,” she said.
For her, Juneteenth is just the beginning of the journey of freedom for Black Americans.
“We must celebrate Juneteenth as only a starting point, continue to enlighten others as to what freedom really looks like, and persist in keeping this pursuit front of mind for every American,” she said.
A moment to look back — and ahead
For some employees, like Janelle McClure, the holiday will be spent in reflection and learning about the past and how it connects to the present.
“Juneteenth means collective freedom,” said Janelle, an associate director of government affairs. “It is a reminder of the action and effort beyond just words that collective freedom requires.”
Seymour Ryan, a general manager in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is taking this opportunity to share the meaning of Juneteenth with his employees.
He didn’t learn about the day until he was in his late 20s, and now he’s passionate about driving awareness about Juneteenth by posting about its significance on social media and talking about it in his store.
“Juneteenth means that we as Black people have to continue to push for equality in all areas of our lives — housing, schools, careers, and the criminal justice system, to name a few,” he said.
Giving back to the community
Michael Jordan, a general manager in Hartsdale, New York, and 17 Best Buy employees from the New York market are volunteering at the Yonkers Juneteenth African American Heritage Festival.
The festival will feature a flag-raising ceremony, live entertainment, educational symposium, kid’s activities, and food. And now, there will also be a Best Buy tent with a raffle benefitting the festival.
Best Buy is also giving gift cards to six youth graduating middle school and high school, and employees will be on hand to build relationships, talk about career opportunities and employee benefits.
“We plan on doing a lot more, but this is just the first step,” he said.
The career journey focus is an important focus for Michael because, to him, celebrating Juneteenth is about more than enslaved Black Americans being freed all those years ago.
“It means a lot to me how I celebrate it going forward by giving back to people who look like me and helping them get ahead in life,” he said.
Just the beginning
For many Black Americans, including District Manager Ken McCullum, Juneteenth is both a celebration and a sobering reminder of the work ahead.
He recalled how he went on a bike ride recently, and a woman in the neighborhood posted a photo of him on the bike on a neighborhood social media page because she thought he stole it.
He said these stories are common for Black Americans, but he’s starting to hear less of them.
“With the celebrations, the awareness and never forgetting our history is making a difference for our future,” he said. “Juneteenth should be a celebration of the work that has been done while planning for the work that is left ahead of us.”
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