Dallas-based Comerica will honor the June 19 federal holiday by giving its 7,500 workers a day off, among other company events.
Department store JCPenney will try to engage shoppers in the holidays with a new Juneteenth collection of shirts and sweatshirts emblazoned with phrases such as “Black history is American history.”
And Dallas Southern Pride, an annual celebration of black LGBTQ people, will host six days of events that kicked off Tuesday to celebrate Juneteenth and Pride Month.
A year after racial and social justice leaders staged protests and rallies in Dallas and other major US cities calling for changes to racism and policing, President Biden signed legislation putting the 19 June tied with Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day. Alongside Biden was 95-year-old Fort Worth civil rights activist Opal Lee.
Celebrated by businesses this year on Monday, Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 when Union forces landed in Galveston with the news that slaves had been emancipated.
Many Dallas-Fort Worth businesses celebrate black history by participating in events and parades. Others offer employees a day off or the opportunity to hear guest speakers discuss topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Harrison Blair, president of the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce, said there have been a number of things that have long been “accepted by black residents” when it comes to Juneteenth. He pointed to products like “Juneteenth ice cream,” which sparked controversy when Walmart introduced it this year.
“Anything that’s going to take advantage of a community that a company isn’t really deeply engaged with is problematic,” Blair said. “Anything that will help us celebrate with the communities it means to uplift and speak about history – it’s something we wholeheartedly support.”
Blair said he sees a lot of improvement this year in how businesses mark the historic holiday.
It can be as simple as teaching staff members why Juneteenth matters, Blair said. He also pointed to seminars held by North Texas companies to educate employees about the importance of diversity.
“Some of the hardest parts are having tough conversations at work and talking about why we’re celebrating this holiday,” Blair said. “It’s not comfortable in every workplace because not every American agrees with the story. It takes bold enterprise and bold leadership to talk about these things we know are hard to talk about.
The Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce is hosting a cleanup of William Blair Park at 9 a.m. Saturday to bring the community together ahead of the holidays. The chamber will support a number of events across the city, Blair said, but he encourages people to learn history by visiting places such as the African American Museum in Dallas’ Fair Park or the South Cultural Center. Dallas.
At Dallas-based Comerica, the bank and its employees will take time off from the federal government, said Nate Bennett, the bank’s director of diversity and head of talent acquisition.
“Juneteenth is of crucial importance for us and our colleagues, because we look at it from two angles: what are we doing internally for our colleagues? And how do we support our communities when it comes to Juneteenth? Bennett said.
Comerica hosted a virtual roundtable on Wednesday June 19 and has a collaborative partnership with the National Association of Black Accountants.
Leading a diverse workforce means fostering an environment where employees feel like they belong, Bennett said. Of Comerica’s U.S. workforce, 41% are racial or ethnic minorities, according to its 2021 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Indicators.
“It’s the opportunity we have at Comerica to bring our true selves to work, to really feel that we have psychological safety and therefore are treated fairly,” Bennett said.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas will also take the day off and brought in Rev. Deneen Robinson, program director at the Afiya Center in Dallas, earlier this week to speak with employees about the intersections of race, religion, sex and sexuality. The Dallas Fed has 1,200 employees, some of whom are in offices in Houston, San Antonio and El Paso.
He also hosted the Public Relations Society of America for a conversation with Dione Sims, director of Unity Unlimited Inc. and granddaughter of Opal Lee, known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth”. Wednesday’s conversation focused on why it’s essential to go beyond simply acknowledging Juneteenth.
Federal law requires U.S. employers to decide whether or not to give their workers a paid day off, though some opt to observe a day of service that may be unpaid.
Dallas-based Match Group will give its employees a paid day off, said Terrance Thomas, its DEI programs manager. Thomas said Match sent out a company-wide email ahead of Juneteenth to encourage employees to take the time to learn more about the day and invited everyone to a Juneteenth celebration on Wednesday in its Dallas office.
The company’s “Family Affair” themed event featured traditional June 16 dishes such as red velvet cake, fruit and strawberry hibiscus tea, which symbolizes sacrifice while celebrating unity, said Thomas. Prosperity foods like cornbread, black-eyed peas and sweet potatoes were also included, he said.
“We want everyone at Match to feel prosperous and lucky this Juneteenth,” Thomas said.
Southwest Airlines spokesman Chris Perry said the Dallas-based carrier is offering a floating day off for its 59,000 employees to choose a federal or religious holiday they wish to celebrate. Floating vacations can be used for vacations that aren’t part of the 10 company holidays, Perry said, such as the employee’s birthday.
“We encourage our employees to celebrate and observe holidays that are important to them,” Perry said. “Our robust DEI department allows employees to participate in cultural celebrations throughout the year, including Juneteenth.”
Dallas-based AT&T plans to share a message Friday from Corey Anthony, the company’s chief diversity officer, about the holidays. At 6 p.m. Saturday, the AT&T Discovery District will host a free June 19 picnic and live music by local black artists Medicine Man Revival and DJ Richy.
One of the first North Texas companies to announce plans for Juneteenth was Plano-based JC Penney. The company will host a mix of events, products and philanthropic engagements to honor the holidays and benefit Opal Lee’s work. Her leaders and employees will join Lee in Fort Worth on Saturday for her freedom march, building on a tradition she started in 2016 with 2.5-mile marches representing the 2.5 years it took to the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation to reach Texas.
“These efforts are the result of creative collaboration between many parts of the organization, and JC Penney is thrilled to come together to honor this moment,” said Val Harris, its senior vice president of design, management, brand and trends.
JC Penney stores will remain open on Monday, however, with hourly associates receiving additional holiday pay.
Canadian media company Thomson Reuters introduced a paid day off for its full-time U.S. employees for the first time in 2020 and is rolling out the vacation as part of its official vacation schedule, said Brian Peccarelli, director of the operation of Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters has more than 800 employees in North Texas.
Peccarelli said the company’s Black Employee Network will host a Thursday reception at its Carrollton campus on Thursday in recognition of Juneteenth.
“It’s a time when employees can come together to learn, fellowship and celebrate and is open to all Thomson Reuters employees,” Peccarelli said.
It’s not just a day off. Other businesses join in community celebrations as vendors or sponsors.
Dallas Southern Pride, Dallas’ Juneteenth Unity weekend celebrating black LGBTQ identities, draws more than 20,000 people to the area, producing an economic impact of $2.2 million last year, said Kirk Myers-Hill , chairman of the group.
Popular retail spaces like the Galleria in Dallas and Legacy West in Plano also host events during the holidays. The Galleria commissioned a t-shirt from artist Nikki Dionne, known for her portrayal of black life in America.
At Legacy West, a fashion show in Legacy Hall will feature local black designers and creatives. These include: House Of Dasha, Don Morphy, Ese Azenabor, 1 Street Sales, creteation, Handmade Statement Earrings and Accessories, Indigo 1745, Amy Holly Caftans, Energy Check, PWR WMN and MEZAI Accessories.
The Dallas Cowboys are hosting an event Saturday at The Star in Frisco that highlights Black-owned businesses and the Frisco Inclusion Committee.
Companies featured include: Brandon Harris Art, Customs by AK, Design by Society, EMBODI, Energy Gardens Living Decor, Hoppin’ Preps, Infinity Candle Co., JJ Carson Press, Kerry Lofton, Kessler Baking Studio, Lilac Tattoo Studio, Nard Got Sole, Tamu from OV, Pieces of Us by Us, Rose Style Studio, The Painted Phoenix and Wilder Sweet.
For companies that want to go beyond holiday recognition, Blair said the key is to keep the conversation going. He said workplaces need to consider historical committees or groups to dig deeper into the history of June 19 and issues affecting black people.
“Sharing Dallas’ cultural history doesn’t hurt us, it makes us stronger,” he said.