On Juneteenth, Starbucks partners celebrate freedom, independence, truth


Our partners (employees) share family traditions and connect with communities. See how you can join us.

While Juneteenth became a federal and national holiday in 2021, it’s been celebrated by generations of Black Americans dating back to June 19, 1865. On that day, two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln, Union soldiers entered Galveston, Texas and finally notified the enslaved population that they were free.

For the third year, Starbucks is observing Juneteenth as a company holiday. Explore the historical significance of this day here.

This year, our partners across the country are continuing traditions and creating new ones. 

Kionte, district manager in Frisco, Texas

“For me, Juneteenth is Freedom Day. We’re happy about the red sodas and the barbecue and the day off, but we’re here to acknowledge that this is a result of being in bondage and slavery.”

Smiling man leaning against counter in Starbucks cafe

Kionte can trace his family heritage in Texas back five generations. For as long as he can remember, his family has recognized Juneteenth through church barbecues and his mother’s beloved tradition of serving red soda to honor the sacrifices of enslaved ancestors who came before him. Kionte says it feels surreal – and joyful – to see Juneteenth become so widely recognized. After starting his Starbucks journey eight years ago as a 19-year-old barista, Kionte is now a district manager and proud to create a space for partners to talk openly about their shared heritage and their vastly different experiences with Juneteenth. 

People gathered outside at a cookout
Photo: Zerb Mellish

“For me, Juneteenth is Freedom Day. We’re happy about the red sodas and the barbecue and the day off, but we’re here to acknowledge that this is a result of being in bondage and slavery. What could we still be going through today that is a remnant of that? And so, I think acknowledging the history and putting yourself in a position where you can continue to learn and educate yourself about Juneteenth while participating in some of the festivities and events, I think is the best way to honor it.” 

Kay, assistant store manager in Oakland, California

“I can still feel my granny in my soul, hear her voice in my head, and smell her when I cook certain dishes that are her recipes.”

Smiling woman in Starbucks t-shirt in front of Starbucks store

Kay’s grandparents migrated to Oakland from Monroe, Louisiana, after World War II and brought their Juneteenth traditions with them. She remembers the stories passed down from her great-grandmother, who was an enslaved person. Every Juneteenth, Kay cooks her granny’s recipes from scratch for her kids and her grandchildren. Together, they celebrate Black culture through music, film and food. Ultimately, she wants her family to honor their survival and place in American history. Juneteenth is a sacred day in which the nation declared Black slaves are “no longer chattel. You are now a person,” she said.

Person grilling chicken over an outdoor barbeque
Photo: Meika Ejiasi

“I can still feel my granny in my soul, hear her voice in my head, and smell her when I cook certain dishes that are her recipes. (Depending) on when Juneteenth falls, If we have the whole weekend, we ball out till we fall out! So much fun, no bedtime. If it’s on a Sunday, it’s a Sunday dinner kind of thing. This year, it’s going to be a blowout. We’ll put a TV in a garage and the backyard. Movies playing simultaneously. This will be our first one since COVID. Get everybody there! We’ll play music, the kids will run around the house. I just want them to understand and know the value of a family. Family is just like the root of a tree. You don’t need to see it, but you feed it and it’s strong as hell – as long as you water and care for that tree. My kids are the leaves and I’m the root.”
 

Margaret, district manager in Washington, D.C.

“For me, Jubilee is a feeling. It’s almost like an unexplainable joy that you cannot contain.”

Smiling person in Now Brewing t-shirt sitting in front of mural in Starbucks store

Though she was born and raised in the nation’s capital, Margaret only learned about Juneteenth as an adult through her involvement with the Starbucks Black Partner Network. She’s now focused on teaching her children and grandchildren about what she views as Independence Day for Black people. In 2020 and 2021, she joined other Black Partner Network members in celebrating locally. Some chapters held cookouts and block parties. In her area, partners read aloud children’s books about Juneteenth at small gatherings at the Starbucks community store in southeast Washington, D.C. This year, they will hold their third annual BPN Juneteenth book reading at Children of Mine Youth Center, a grantee of The Starbucks Foundation. At home, she will host a Juneteenth jubilee for her entire family, complete with homecooked dishes and a “paint and sip,” where everyone will paint canvases celebrating Black culture while sipping sweet tea and lemonade.

Two people holding up Juneteenth flag, wearing Starbucks apron and t-shirt, holding up fist
Photo: Kyna Uwaeme

“For me, Jubilee is a feeling. It’s almost like an unexplainable joy that you cannot contain. As you learn what Juneteenth is, I would say you should do what you authentically feel like you should do. Maybe read a book so that you educate yourself or maybe recognize the holiday and do some service for others, like pouring into someone else. If there is a community event or gatherings – participate. But more importantly, really educate yourself so that if ever you’re in a space where we’re not there to speak up for ourselves – you can advocate for us. You can speak on our behalf because you’ve read and you understand what that day means. I would say don’t just wear some colors or grab a flag and don’t know what it actually means. Really understand it and get curious. And don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

Celebrate Juneteenth

This year, Starbucks partners are observing Juneteenth in partnership with the Northwest African American Museum. Check out NAAM’s exceptional lineup of programming, starting on June 12 and open to all.

NAAM’s mission is to spread knowledge, understanding, and enjoyment of the histories, arts, and cultures of people of African descent for the enrichment of all. NAAM accomplishes its mission by working with others to:

  • Present and preserve the connections between the Pacific Northwest and people of African descent; and to
  • Investigate and celebrate Black experiences in America through exhibitions, programs, and events.
Gathering virtually across the U.S.

On June 19, the Northwest African American Museum will join the BLK Freedom Collective, a coalition of leading Black museums and historical institutions across the country, to host its third annual virtual celebration of Juneteenth at BLKFREEDOM.org.

In “We the People,” anthropologists and voices from the museums will explore the U.S. Constitution. Each museum has selected a theme from the U.S. Constitution’s Preamble to guide their program contribution. In its third year of participation, NAAM will discuss innovation.

The video will be live at 12 p.m. EDT / 11 a.m. PST. Until then, learn more at www.blkfreedom.org.

The presentation will premiere on partnering sites and partnering networks at 12 p.m. EDT / 11 a.m. PST. Tune in at this link.

Learning from History

Gain a deeper understanding of Juneteenth by visiting our explainer.

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