Quest Dew has been celebrating Juneteenth for years, and he’s on a mission to share that celebration with his Best Buy co-workers.
Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States on June 19, 1865 — nearly 2 ½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation. It has long been a meaningful holiday for Black Americans, yet its awareness has remained relatively low among the broader population.
That’s why Quest decided to bring the celebration to his colleagues at Best Buy’s Seattle Technology Office last year. And, this year, he’ll share it with a larger audience across the entire company.
The holiday takes on greater significance now as recent horrific deaths of Black Americans have highlighted police brutality and social injustice, leading to global protests and unrest. Racism has been, once again, thrust into the forefront of our national conversation.
“Given the current social climate we’re in, I think it’s important to give the resources, tools and research so people can be actively involved,” Quest said.
While most people are familiar with President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, they might not realize that the news of emancipation and end of the Civil War didn’t reach the last group of enslaved people — nearly 250,000 in Texas — until 1865. Union Gen. Gordon Granger delivered the message in Galveston and, from the celebrations that followed, Juneteenth was created.
Many communities across the U.S. celebrate the day, from family gatherings to public events. In 1980, Texas became the first state to make Juneteenth a state holiday. Today, 47 states and Washington, D.C., recognize the day as a state holiday. It is not a national holiday.
Putting education into action
For Quest, the last few weeks have been full of pain and anger.
“From a perspective of being a Black male, I feel worthless,” he said. “To have this [racism] as a thing that’s above our head all the time — it’s just painful. I feel like we are targeted in everything we do, and that is one of the things that is hard to deal with daily.”
That experience is what has driven him to share his story, and the history of Juneteenth, with his co-workers — most of whom don’t share his background.
“A lot of people understand that there is systemic racism in Seattle, and I wanted to bring a fresh perspective of someone who had not lived in Seattle their entire life,” the Chicago native said. “I am hopeful that this education will spark change and action.”
The event he organized last year included a Juneteenth history presentation, singing of the Black national anthem and food. He wanted to not only educate his colleagues but also help them hold themselves accountable for their actions — both present and future.
“I wanted them to understand that I care about this. This is my life. This is who I am,” Quest said. “If you want to sit here, have lunch with me, laugh with me and share time outside of work with me, then you need to know who I am and what I stand for.”
This year, as he brings the celebration — and education — to a broader, virtual audience, Quest envisions a different feel. There will still be information about Juneteenth and its significance in American history, but he also plans to include a larger focus on what it means to be an ally and how to turn that allyship into advocacy.
“I am hoping that people not only understand what it’s like now to be a Black person in this country, but for them to see the celebration and joy our ancestors got from just being free,”he said. “Let us celebrate the same Fourth of July experience that others in this country get to experience.”
To that end, Quest was moved to hear this week’s announcement that Juneteenth will become an official company holiday at Best Buy.
“Everything we discussed leading up to this point has made a difference,” he said.