Chicago-area companies urge employees to honor Juneteenth by giving back

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Some Chicago-area companies are asking workers to honor Juneteenth by giving back to the communities they serve.

"Nationally Juneteenth is celebrated as the day that all of the enslaved people were freed, but thinking about that in a modern context, you think about all of the different ways in which we still have these elements of systemic racism," said Christina Gardner, multi-cultural retention coordinator at College of Lake County.

The college is among many groups hosting discussions about the oldest known holiday honoring the end of slavery in the U.S., and its modern-day significance after recent protests. This year, Juneteenth appears to be getting the attention of corporate America.

"What we're asking is for all of our corporate employees, both in Canada and the U.S., to celebrate as a day of service, to spend the day committing to food insecurity programs, social justice organizations to learning about racial injustice and the history of African Americans," said Rashida La Lande of Kraft Heinz Company.

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This week, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce's COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force released its report in advance of Juneteenth, which urges businesses to pledge to buy local, hire local, invest locally and to listen and learn from those most affected in black and brown communities.

"In order to continue our fight for equal justice under the law for black and brown communities, it is imperative that business in the Chicagoland area step up to the plate and commit to change," said Robin Brown, the task force's co-chair.

Twenty-five companies gave input to the report.

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Task force members hope many more companies will take the pledge.
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