In 2020, Best Buy declared Juneteenth a company holiday to commemorate June 19, 1865 — the day the last enslaved people in the U.S. were declared free, two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
The holiday has long been meaningful for Black Americans, but it didn’t become a federal holiday until last year. The day is one for celebration, reflection, giving back or spending time with family. Events of all sizes will be happening around the nation.
At Best Buy, our Black Employee Resource Group has been hosting conversations about the holiday and ways to celebrate. We spoke with two employees about their Juneteenth experiences and how they observe the holiday.
Jairus Bush: “It’s not just another day”
As a child, Jairus Bush remembers his parents talking about Juneteenth, but didn’t dive much deeper into understanding the day other than knowing it had a connection to slavery.
It wasn’t until his college freshman year in an African American Studies course that Jairus, a demand planning analyst at Best Buy, finally learned the full background of Juneteenth and its significance.
“It’s like a second Independence Day,” he said. “It set my people free.”
Jairus attended Jackson State University his freshman year and later transferred and graduated from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical (A&T) State University, both Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). He said his HBCU education was critical to his development in helping him understand his identity as a Black man as well as providing opportunities to go after his education and career goals.
“It gave me perspective on who I really am in America as a Black man,” he said. “It instilled values into me and showed me my value, more than anything. That I can do anything I put my mind to.”
Since learning about the history and importance of Juneteenth, Jairus has begun to recognize the holiday on his own and with his family and friends. He celebrates by connecting with his community, whether it’s through social gatherings or volunteering.
“It’s not another day of observation or rest,” he said. “I try to get out into the community and volunteer and be a part of the bigger Black community wherever I am.”
Nikki Coleman: “I’ll continue to be a sponge.”
Nikki Coleman’s journey to learn more about Juneteenth began with a conversation with her husband. Nikki, a white woman, asked her husband, a Black man, about Juneteenth and his experience recognizing the holiday. That conversation inspired her to learn more about the holiday’s history so she could help educate her children and become a better ally for the Black community.
“It wasn’t something I learned about growing up. I’m not an expert, but I’ll continue to be a sponge,” Nikki said.
The senior executive assistant decided to volunteer to increase her own and her community’s knowledge about Juneteenth and its history.
She began helping at the Juneteenth celebration in Apple Valley, Minnesota, by helping facilitate the kids’ area. After two years volunteering with the event, Nikki joined the planning committee made up of 16 diverse women, including high school students, who live or work in the area.
“I’ve gotten so much more out of the event than I thought I would,” she said. “I want to help other people who look like me continue to learn.”
What started as an interest in learning more has grown to a strong determination to educate others about Juneteenth and bring her community together. She is dedicated to helping deliver the best possible event for the community and hopes others will continue to educate themselves and ask questions all year round.
“My experience with Juneteenth and this event has been beautiful,” she said. “I’m happy to see the conversations keep going around this holiday.”
To learn more about Best Buy’s commitment to inclusion and diversity visit here.