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Illustration by Security Management

Demonstrations, Strikes Planned for Juneteenth Celebration

Minneapolis residents and individuals across the United States are preparing to participate in various forms of activism on Friday and throughout the weekend to mark Juneteenth.

Friday, 19 June, marks the 155th anniversary of when enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learned that the Civil War was over and they were free—almost two years after then U.S. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves held in Confederate states. The date has since become known as Juneteenth and is traditionally marked by parades, cookouts, church gatherings, and spirituals.

This 2020 event comes after weeks of demonstrations in the United States, spurred by the murder of George Floyd during an arrest by Minneapolis police officers, to protest police use of force and systemic racism.

In Minneapolis, Juneteenth kicked off with a memorial run for Floyd and a rally outside of the State Capitol organized by Black Lives Matter Minnesota and other activist groups, according to The Star Tribune.

“There is going to be an absolute large number of people that will engage in [Juneteenth] because of the time and space we’re in,” said Misha Bartlett, an organizer for a Juneteenth celebration in the Minneapolis and Saint Paul area (known as the Twin Cities). “I think this is going to be a really great day of awareness for people.”

Across the United States, similar events are occurring alongside a general workers strike focused on addressing systemic racism. One of the largest planned strikes will take place on the West Coast of the United States, where the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) will stop work for eight hours at all 29 ports on the coast, Newsweek reports.

“The people of this country demand an end to the racist violence that claimed the lives of Brother George Floyd and so many others! The Fight against Racist Terror has been going on for centuries,” the union said in a statement. “It is time for organized labor to join the struggle!”

Activist groups like Black Lives Matter are also pushing for Juneteenth to be recognized as a national holiday. The proposal is gaining ground in Congress where U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), and U.S. Senator John Coryn (R-TX) plan to introduce legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. Jackson has annually introduced the legislation during her tenure in office.

“There needs to be a reckoning, an effort to unify. One thing about national holidays, they help educate people about what the story is,” Jackson said in an interview with TIME magazine. “Juneteenth legislation is a call for freedom, but it also reinforces the history of African Americans.”

Most U.S. states and the District of Columbia already recognize Juneteenth as a holiday, with Virginia potentially joining the fray. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced on 16 June that he would make Juneteenth a paid holiday for all state employees and that he intends to put back legislation to make the event an official state holiday.

“It’s time we elevate Juneteenth not just as a celebration by and for some Virginians, but one acknowledged and commemorated by all of us,” Northam said. “It mattered then because it marked the end of slavery in this country, and it matters now because it says to black communities, this is not just your history—this is everyone’s shared history, and we will celebrate it together. This is a step toward the Commonwealth we want to be as we go forward.”

Many companies—including Best Buy, General Motors, Nike, National Football League, Postmates, Target, Twitter, and U.S. Bank—have also made the day a company holiday.

“The events of the past few weeks have changed the conversation and added a sense of urgency that has motivated more people across the globe to act to address social injustice,” said Andy Cecere, chairman, president, and CEO of U.S. Bank, in a press release. “That begins with acknowledging our rich and diverse history. We are encouraging our employees to use this time to serve in our communities, commit to inclusion and advocacy, or simply educate themselves on this very important topic.”

The recognition of Juneteenth and the ongoing dialogue about systemic racism mark a major turning point in a universal demand for change, according to new research by Edelman, which produces the annual Trust Barometer Report. Edelman conducted a flash poll over the 5-7 June weekend and found that across the board, Americans expect brands to “step up and play a central role in addressing systemic racism,” said CEO Richard Edelman in a statement.

“Sixty percent of respondents said that brands must take a stand to publicly speak out against racial injustice,” Richard Edelman explained. “That same 60 percent of Americans said that they will buy or boycott a brand based on if and how it responds to the current protests. Young adults—ages 18-34—are the most proactive in their response, with 78 percent of respondents saying that a brand must speak out, versus 48 percent of those 55 plus.”

Edelman’s research also found that 52 percent of respondents of color—out of the 2,000 individuals surveyed—said they would not work for a company that does not speak out on systemic racism.

“We have proven that brands can no longer dodge America’s original sin and third rail: systemic racism and inequality,” Richard Edleman added. “The voice of the brand connects in a different way than corporations and CEOs; it inspires, motivates, and offers hope. It is powerful in making change because it stirs emotions and provokes response. The relationship of trust between brand and consumer now depends on tangible actions destined to change the course of history.”