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A Note on Juneteenth

When I was 8 years old, my mother took me to our family’s annual barbecue in my hometown’s local state park. It was a modest event—store-bought food and baked goods over a coal-burning public grill—but we looked forward to it every year.

“Juneteenth” was a special moment of congregation, celebration, and pure, unfiltered joy. At the time, I had no idea what Juneteenth was. I naively thought it was a satirical way of creating a holiday out of an ordinary family gathering. I remember laughing at relatives who would suggest that Juneteenth ought to be a nationally recognized event. “We don’t have enough food for the whole country to come to our cookout!” I would say. However, on this particular day (perhaps realizing that I was at a critical age where cultural awareness was paramount), my mother sat me down and kindly explained to me the history of Juneteenth.

Juneteenth—celebrated annually on June 19—commemorates the emancipation of the last remaining slaves in Galveston, Texas (more than two years after the emancipation proclamation). It is a day of rest and reflection, and an opportunity for the African American community to memorialize their lineage.

As PagerDuty honors this day with our first ever #Day4Change, I am reminded of both this life-changing cookout as well as the metaphorical one that members of my community reference every day: safe, all-Black spaces where we find refuge and fellowship. For my Non-Black readers, when a Black person says “you’re invited to the cookout,” what they’re really saying is “you’ve demonstrated genuine interest, love, and concern for the Black community and are a welcomed ally.” But true allyship can only be achieved through selfless action and a commitment to equitable and inclusive behaviors—today and every day. That is the essence of #Day4Change: united, repeatable actions across a mosaic of identities in service of a critical population within our community.

As I mentioned in The Wall Street Journal, Black minds have driven tech innovation and creativity for decades. From Katherine Johnson’s brilliant contributions to NASA, to Dr. Mark Dean’s genius in creating the personal computer (PC), it’s clear that tech—one of the world’s wealthiest and most influential industries—has a tremendous opportunity to double down on its commitment to uplift and celebrate Black lives and contributions.

Now, as I read through the incredible Dutonian contributions in our #Day4Change Slack channel, I am overwhelmed with emotion. From art, literature, and film to civil protest and volunteerism, we are living examples of the power of allyship. Today, we’ve seen:

  • One Dutonian inspires his peers to Race for Action with a 100-meter race challenge to raise funds ($10,000) and awareness for Black Lives Matter
  • A group of Dutonians come together to build “The Peoples’ Police Registry,” a web-based resource for the everyday citizen to learn more about the officers policing their communities
  • Our foundation, PagerDuty.org, organize a movie screening and Q&A for Bryan Stevenson’s film Just Mercy

And that’s just the beginning. Though it will take much more than a single day of action to create long-lasting change, this moment gives me immense hope that there may be more room at “the cookout” than I ever imagined.

Onwards and Upwards,

Marcus Cooper
Director, Global Head of ID&E

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P.S. If you or your organization would like to participate in a future #Day4Change we’ve compiled this toolkit to help you get started!