June 19 is better known as Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the official recognition of the end of slavery in the United States. And as we look at the state of our nation, we as a company recognize the significance of this date and honor what it meant for this country then and now. That’s why, for the first time, we are observing Juneteenth as a company-wide holiday.
It was on this day back in 1865 when Major General Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3 aloud to the people of Galveston, Texas, announcing the total emancipation of enslaved people, two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had abolished slavery in the Confederate Southern states.
“I grew up near Galveston, and grew up being really aware of the Juneteenth holiday, but I also understand It’s new to some folks that aren’t as familiar with it — especially our teams globally,” said Tracy Layney, Chief Human Resources Officer. “It’s a critical day in American history and it’s critical for the Black community, and we are pleased to be recognizing it as a company holiday this year — and beyond.”
Juneteenth has been celebrated in the United States as a day to commemorate African American freedom and emphasize education and achievement. Yet more than a century and a half later, there is still deeply rooted systemic racism in the country.
The deaths of Black men and women at the hands of police over the past few months are just the most recent examples of the systemic racism that has persisted in the U.S. The brutal truth is that generations of Black Americans have continued to face discrimination since that long-ago day in Galveston in 1865, and we must make better progress to stop it — starting in our own home.
And that’s not always comfortable, as Jerald Estime, vice president of Levi Strauss Americas Real Estate and a member of our Black employee resource group, recently said to employees.
“[Any change you make] is going to be highly uncomfortable until you get used to it and you create muscle memory,” said Jerald. “That’s what our organization needs to do: we need to create muscle memory around this topic, around the uncomfortable discussion of race, the uncomfortable discussion of being an ally. And that takes practice, time and thousands of swings.”
It also takes action. This week, we published our demographic representation data, which put a harsh spotlight on a brutal truth at this company – we aren’t recruiting or hiring enough Black employees. Too few Black people are in positions to make hiring decisions. And the lack of racial diversity in leadership positions affects every aspect of life at LS&Co. Our ultimate goal is for the racial makeup of our U.S. corporate employees and our leadership at least match that of the United States. And we pledge to improve the representation numbers every year as we work toward that goal.
Learn how you can make a difference and tune in to the Levi’s Instagram account for a special edition of the Use Your Voice Live series.
Visit LeviStrauss.com to learn more about LS&Co.’s history of fighting for social justice, and read more from our President & CEO, Chip Bergh, on how we’re going to continue this fight moving forward.