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On this Juneteenth, many Americans celebrate for the first time

June 19, 2020, 2:33 PM UTC

Like many of you, Fortune staffers have a new paid holiday today, so we’re sending along your Haikus bright and early and taking the rest of the day off. Aric Jenkins, whom you formally met in the last newsletter, worked with Fortune video producer Devin Hance to expand upon his debut Juneteenth essay. Check out the video here. Also in the news: Google has a plan, Kaep’s got a new platform, DACA’s can keep dreaming, and Aunt Jemima is out of a gig.

But first, here’s your emancipation-inspired week in review, in Haiku.

If I had known that
everyone was fixin’ to 
celebrate Juneteenth

this year, I would have
booked a bigger room! I’m low
on red velvet cake,

strawberry soda;
I’ll save the watermelon
just for the children.

There’s plenty of good
spirit to go around — for
those with air to breathe,

there’s a righteous song
for ev’ry voice to sing, ‘til
earth and heaven ring.

Many companies have made splashy announcements about Juneteenth company holidays, but the way they treat their Black employees when they return on Monday matters just as much, if not more. Fortune has compiled stories from Black employees across industries that reveal what their experiences in corporate America are like. It’s clear: No matter what companies are doing to take a stand against racial inequality right now, there is much more work to be done. We’re not done compiling stories, either. Let us know your experience as a Black employee in the workplace here.

One more thing before we get into the news: If you were to assemble the people who could help you truly understand health care and how it’s affected businesses today, who would you pick? Here’s a few on Fortune’s list: 

  • The CEOs and presidents of healthcare giants Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Novartis, Aetna
  • Co-discoverer of CRISPR-Cas9 Dr. Jennifer Doudna
  • Dean of Stanford Medicine Dr. Lloyd Minor
  • Chief medical officers from IBM, Verily, Google Health
  • Healthcare Venture Capitalists like Sue Siegel
  • Thrive Global CEO Arianna Huffington
  • CEO of REFORM Alliance Van Jones
  • NBA Commissioner Adam Silver

Hear from them and more at FORTUNE Brainstorm Health, our virtual health care conference on July 7-8. As a newsletter subscriber, you’re invited to use this code—BSH20HALF—and get half off.

Wishing you a spirited and heavenly long weekend.

Ellen McGirt

On point

SCOTUS gives DACA recipients a reprieve for now That said, it was the decision that brought an unalloyed joy to anyone who had been shielded from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and the people who employed or cared about them. The Supreme Court has ended President Trump’s bid to end the program that covered some 700,000 young immigrants. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the majority opinion, saying that Trump’s rationale for ending the program was insufficient. “We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” the chief justice wrote. “We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.”
New York Times

Google CEO is looking to diversify the company, and beyond I learned a great deal during my recent conversation with Google CEO Sundar Pichai. For one thing, he’s declared addressing systemic racism an emergency worthy of a crisis response team similar to one they used to address the coronavirus epidemic. But I believe he thinks this time it’s different, and that matters. "It's been a long journey," Pichai says. "I've heard it before, but to hear stories, particularly in this context, it's clear that there is systemic racism that permeates not just dealings with law enforcement, but be it housing, be it education, be it health care and in the workplace, right? And so I think the question is how can we capture the moment and translate it into attention and effort that sustains over time to create change." Please read and share.

Colin Kaepernick joins Medium’s board of directors The most consequential quarterback in history continues to make excellent use of his power, privilege, and spare time. Ev Williams, founder of the online publishing platform announced the news today on Medium. “In addition to the board seat, Medium will partner with Colin and Kaepernick Publishing to create and feature stories focused on race and civil rights in America, and to elevate emerging voices from communities of color,” he wrote.

AirBnb has a new initiative to measure discrimination on the platform Project Lighthouse is a partnership with advocacy powerhouse Color of Change. The partnership has been years in the making, says Color of Change. "The goal of the project is to measure discrimination based on factors that drive perception of race, including first names and profile photos," the company tells raceAhead by email, and once complete, Airbnb will share the findings publicly. “Airbnb is setting an important precedent by taking measurable steps to examine and dismantle discriminatory online systems," COC President Rashad Robinson said in a statement. “Silicon Valley has a long way to go to constructively engage with civil rights groups by proactively, not reactively, seeking out our expertise to build platforms that serve Black people instead of harming us.”
Airbnb newsroom

A quick roundup of news from the financial sector Wells Fargo issues a new plan to boost diversity, which will link executive pay to diversity goals. And it will help, for a while. Edward Jones plans to increase diversity among its 18,700 financial advisers, and is giving $1 million to the National Urban League “Fights for You” campaign. And Marilyn Booker, first joined Morgan Stanley in 1994 and served as their first-ever diversity chief for 16 years, is now suing the firm, alleging she experienced and witnessed “systemic racial discrimination” against Black employees at the bank. More on that below.

Have Spike Lee’s latest, ‘Da 5 Bloods’ low in your Netflix queue? Read this, and move it up Fortune’s Radhika Marya sat down virtually with Jonathan Majors, one of the stars of the new film, which focuses on the story of four Black veterans who return to Vietnam in search of a fallen comrade — and something more. It’s an overdue opportunity to understand, in great detail, the unique and often wrenching experiences of Black soldiers in Vietnam, Majors says. “The story of war and the story of African-Americans does not go hand in hand,” he explains. “We have been divorced from that narrative a great deal.” The nuances in his character were vital and interesting, adds Majors. His character was “a Morehouse [College] man— the motto of Morehouse is ‘Let there be light,’” he says. Proud, accomplished, with a complicated relationship to his own father. “My [character's] mission was: Get my father’s love, make my father proud, and in doing that, you can get a whole lot of stories.”

On background

Well, Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben are out of work  Both brands have retired their long-running logos, acknowledging their racist origins. "As we work to make progress toward racial equality through several initiatives, we also must take a hard look at our portfolio of brands and ensure they reflect our values and meet our consumers' expectations," said Quaker Oats, which is owned by Pepsi, in a statement. Mars, the owner of the Uncle Ben’s rice brand made a similar statement. While we wait for the Cream of Wheat folks to get on board, now would be a good time to meet the character who was the basis of their logo – an ugly stereotype of a formerly enslaved man, universally known as "Rastus." The image of the former slave was central to the success of this product, which made company founder Emery Mapes millions of dollars. More here and below.

Wait, Beethoven was Black?!? Well, no. Oh, hell yes!  “I was definitely in high school when I realized Beethoven was Black,” tweeted Oscar-winning director Matthew Cherry. “He was, without a doubt a mulatto,” claim some. Yeah, seems unlikely, says The Beethoven Center. In any event, the “was-he-or-wasn’t-he” debate which erupted this week was the most fun I've had heading down an internet rabbit hole in ages. He did, for a fact, have a Black friend named George Bridgetower, a prodigy and master violinist. (At least for a while.) A blog post from 2015 resurfaced on Twitter this, reignited the controversy — hoards of Beethoven-curious have since crashed the site. A 2015 album by a group called Beethoven Was African even attempted to prove that the composer’s style reflected West African roots. Did it? I have no idea! But I’m claiming Ludwig van as a cousin anyway.
The Guardian

How watermelon was lost to racist cruelty Watermelon, along with other red foods, are traditional fare for Juneteenth celebrations — but in most circles, watermelon, and images of Black people with or eating them, has long been a racist trope. “[T]he stereotype that African Americans are excessively fond of watermelon emerged for a specific historical reason and served a specific political purpose,” says William R. Black, a historian of American religion and culture, with a focus on the Civil War era. “Free black people grew, ate, and sold watermelons, and in doing so made the fruit a symbol of their freedom,” he says. “Southern whites, threatened by blacks’ newfound freedom, responded by making the fruit a symbol of black people’s perceived uncleanliness, laziness, childishness, and unwanted public presence.” Come to find out, the racist association with watermelon goes back to Europe.
The Atlantic


raceAhead is edited by Aric Jenkins.

Today's mood board

A man smiling at the prospect of no longer being used as a racist mascot.

Some Juneteenth to read and share

  • Juneteenth at the National Museum of African American History & Culture
  • Vann R. Newkirk II: “Juneteenth has always been touched with irony. Although it is the most popular Emancipation Day holiday in the country, it marks neither the legal nor the de facto end of slavery in the country…Juneteenth, rather, celebrates a belated liberation."
  • Don’t let the corporate endorsement fool you, says, Robert Greene II in Current Affairs. “[T]he humble roots of the holiday and its continued existence illustrate the Black American struggle to forge their own remembrance of America’s past, stripped of unearned pomp and circumstance, but nonetheless filled with a pledge to cherish—and defend—freedom.”
  • Learn the history of red foods in Juneteenth celebrations. Want to join a virtual Juneteenth pot luck? Black food bloggers got you covered.