Businesses and organizations locally and around the country are providing holiday pay or paid time off to commemorate Juneteenth.
Celebrated since the late 1800s, June 19 marks the day that Union soldiers reached Galveston, Texas with news of the Civil War's end and that the enslaved people there were free.
Some businesses have regularly observed the holiday in the workplace, while others have a renewed focus following weeks of protests around the country over racial inequality and incidents of police brutality in America.
Milwaukee Bucks senior vice president Alex Lasry said the team and its offices would take today off in a Twitter post.
“We are closing our offices today in honor and celebration of Juneteenth,” Lasry said in the post. “If you don’t know about Juneteenth please educate yourself. In order to fix our systemic injustices and move towards racial equality, we have to understand how we got here.”
Milwaukee County raised the Juneteenth flag on the south entrance of the Milwaukee County Courthouse. Earlier this week, Milwaukee County executive David Crowley and county board chair Marcelia Nicholson announced that today would become a floating holiday for county employees.
[caption id="attachment_506899" align="alignleft" width="696"] Chris Massey, Darrien Tramel and Latavius Tramel paint the streets at a Juneteenth celebration on N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Locust Street.[/caption]
VISIT Milwaukee is closed as of noon today so that employees can engage in the many Juneteenth events happening across the city.
“We commend and support the County Executive’s decision to make today a floating holiday and hope it becomes a permanent one for Milwaukee,” a Visit Milwaukee spokesperson said in a statement.
JVR Hospitality Group and its restaurants including DanDan and Fauntleroy will be closed today. The day will serve as a paid holiday for all employees, the group announced in a Facebook post.
Target and Best Buy are among big box stores to permanently implement Juneteenth as a company-wide holiday. All corporate offices will be closed while in-store employees will receive holiday pay.
Financial institutions including Associated Bank, U.S. Bank and BMO Harris Bank are closed their branches at noon in honor of Juneteenth. Chase Bank also closed its branches early today.
“As we continue to consider how we, as a company, can play an active role in combating racism and social injustice, we’ve decided to make this Friday, June 19 — known as Juneteenth — a time for us all to reflect on our nation’s inequities, as well as the role we all can play in addressing them,” Chase Bank stated in a letter from company CEOs.
Beloit College announced that starting today and going forward, the college will celebrate Juneteenth as a permanent holiday and a paid day off. The college plans to reach out to state officials to get Juneteenth more “substantively recognized” in Wisconsin, Beloit College president Scott Bierman said in a statement.
“Beloit College intends for this to be a collective opportunity to reflect on progress made on issues of equity, inclusion and community while also re-energizing our personal and collective commitments to doing ever more effective anit- racism work in the future,” Bierman said in a statement.