On Friday, June 19th, we join millions of Americans in commemoration of Juneteenth, a holiday that both celebrates the freedom of African Americans from bondage and serves as a reminder of our country’s unfulfilled promises.

A Celebration of the End of Slavery

Juneteenth commemorates the formal end of slavery in the United States. On June 19th, 1865, the Union Army arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state. The Army announced the end of slavery, as news of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation had been suppressed by slaveowners for two years. The first Juneteenth was officially celebrated by newly freed people the following year.

A Reminder for the Need for Progress

For a century following the end of slavery, white supremacy over African Americans was maintained through endless campaigns of violence and discrimination. As African Americans continued celebrating their freedom on Juneteenth, the holiday became both a celebration of the triumphs of the African American community and an emphatic demand that the country do more to combat continuing racial injustice and oppression. Activists invoked Juneteenth during the civil rights movement, with Dr. King’s “Poor People’s Campaign” citing the holiday in its call for the country to live up to its ideals.

In the decades since, the celebration of Juneteenth has spread beyond the African American community and has been adopted by the wider American public. Americans in cities across the country now participate in the Juneteenth traditions of street fairs, cookouts, public readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, singing freedom songs, and reading works by historic African-American writers.

Juneteenth in 2020

Unfortunately, because of the coronavirus pandemic, many Juneteenth celebrations have been canceled this year. However, both the pandemic and the national outrage at the murder of George Floyd have given Juneteenth an added significance this year, reminding us all of the work that remains to be done to ensure true equality for African Americans in our society.

For those seeking to learn more, here is a selection of resources our team has used to educate ourselves on the importance of this holiday:

  • “Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom” - Book by Charles Taylor
  • “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” - Speech by abolitionist Frederick Douglass
  • “Voices Remembering Slavery: Freed People Tell Their Stories” - Library of Congress collection of interviews with former slaves
  • “Juneteenth” - Novel by Ralph Ellison
  • Juneteenth Website

How Caliva is Honoring Juneteenth

As we mentioned in a recent Instagram post, we’ve made a commitment to play a more active role in addressing the racial inequities that our society faces. We’ve started with commitments we are making as a company, which we recently highlighted and will continue rolling out in the coming weeks and months. But we also want to create space for our employees to drive Caliva’s community engagement efforts, because we know that real change comes from the bottom up

In line with this thinking, today we are launching Caliva’s SEED (Social. Economic. Employee. Donation) Giveback Program. The goal of this program is to empower our employees to determine which types of community engagement will be most impactful in their local communities, and help give them the resources to support the causes that they are personally invested in.

Today, Caliva is providing $15K in initial seed funding for this new program. We will also match any donations to this fund that our employees make in the future. As this fund grows and is used for the causes our employees care most about, we believe our impact on the communities we serve will grow with it.

We know that there is no easy fix to the racial challenges our society faces and that making a real difference will require humility and sustained effort on our part. We look forward to keeping you updated on our many efforts to come.

P.S. Please consider signing the petition to make Juneteenth a National Holiday here.

Your bag is empty
Let’s go shopping now!