Blackhawk Uses Company Holiday to Support Austin Community
Since 2020, Blackhawk has observed Juneteenth as one of our official company holidays — meaning we close our office and give employees the day off. However, Juneteenth has only just now been granted recognition as a federal holiday (although it has been recognized as a state holiday in Texas since 1980), so many Americans don’t know what it is, where it originated, and why some companies are giving employees the day off.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth (a portmanteau of June + nineteenth) commemorates the day in 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, TX announcing that enslaved people had been freed. However, this announcement came two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, meaning that thousands of people unknowingly remained enslaved despite having their freedom already granted. Juneteenth, which is also called Freedom Day, Liberation Day, Jubilee Day, or Emancipation Day, is celebrated by the Black community throughout the United States largely with street fairs, parades, cookouts, and food festivals.
In addition to celebration, Juneteenth is also a day for uplifting and amplifying Black voices; raising awareness and educating about the history of ; community service and activism; thoughtful observation; and more.
Blackhawk Gives Back
Juneteenth this year falls on a Saturday, so on Friday the 18th our team will be spending the day volunteering and doing direct service work in our own community. We’re excited to be supporting the ATX Free Fridge Project by cleaning, organizing, and restocking all 3 of their fridge locations in Austin.
To contribute to the fridges’ long-term sustainability and keep up the momentum throughout the weekend, Blackhawk will also be running a digital fundraising campaign from June 18-20. All funds raised will go to the ATX Free Fridge Project, so they can purchase new materials and equipment to set up new community fridge locations. Blackhawk will also match the first $1000 in donations.
What is the ATX Free Fridge Project?
Started in July 2020, the ATX Free Fridge Project (ATX FFP) is a community mutual aid project that sets up refrigerators and pantries throughout the city of Austin and stocks them with freely available food. Many cities across the US have seen free community fridges popping up over the last year and a half as a direct response to the rise in food insecurity exacerbated by the pandemic.
The ATX FFP is run entirely by a decentralized network of volunteers and operates on the philosophy, “If you are in a place of abundance, feel free to donate! If you are in need, take what will nourish you!” Food and funds, provided by individuals and groups, allow for the fridges to stay stocked and for the Austin community to thrive. Along with food insecurity, housing insecurity has increased considerably since the beginning of the pandemic impacting many of our neighbors and community members. Under these conditions, community-oriented projects — like the ATX FFP that respond directly to community needs — are all the more necessary!
What Do Community Fridges Have to Do with Juneteenth?
According to a 2018 USDA study, Black households were disproportionately affected by food insecurity at a rate of 21.2% while the national average was 11.1%. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the rates of food insecurity among many communities, with a new study illustrating that Black households in particular have experienced even more difficulty affording and accessing food since the onset of the pandemic.
By increasing access to free, nutritious food, community fridges directly meet the needs of Austin’s most vulnerable populations. And, because food is such a central part of many Juneteenth celebrations, it is particularly befitting for us to point time, energy, and resources toward feeding the community.
Keeping Up the Momentum
This campaign will be the first step in establishing an ongoing community partnership with the ATX FFP and other organizations in Austin. It is vital that we continue our involvement throughout the year and support the Austin community in sustainable, meaningful ways. Most Blackhawk employees are not from Austin, making it even more important to give back to the city that has given us so many opportunities.