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Black social service employees celebrate Juneteenth with coworkers, community

Juneteenth is this Sunday and celebrations are getting underway during the work week.

MINNEAPOLIS — Juneteenth is becoming more common to celebrate, even in the workplace — or at least right outside. 

Thursday, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota celebrated the holiday a few days early in a parking lot near its south Minneapolis campus. The nonprofit has served Minnesota families since 1865, which happens to be the same year Juneteenth occurred. Juneteenth represents June 19, 1865, when slaves in Galveston, Texas, were finally informed of their freedom — two years after the emancipation proclamation was signed.

"The day is important to honor in addition to 4th of July, you know, it's a holiday that represents us," LSS employee Maria Taylor said.

Taylor and colleague Tameka Miller are part of the organization's Pan-African Employee Resource Group, which was charged with hosting a Juneteenth event this year for the first time. The group ultimately rallied up around a dozen Black-owned businesses to create a Juneteenth Business Bazaar.

"It's a predominantly white organization," Miller said. "We want to make sure that they know that there's vendors around here … It's us wanting to illuminate what's going on in our community."

While DJ BakeShow provided music, vendors included Mars Jameson, Workzone Ent., Saba Sean, Bubby’s Smokehouse, Whipped Cheesecake & Co., the Kitchen Food Truck, Turtle Creations, Tony Mcnas Art, That’s My Jam, Sean Dee’s Events and Treats, Scntsy, and others. The event was open not only to employees, but also to the community.

"We want everyone to come and support the vendors," Taylor said. "We want them to make lots of money."

At the same time, there was opportunity to inform the community about the nonprofit's meaningful work. Miller says she helps people 16-24 years old to secure stable housing.

"It's fulfilling," she said. "It's also moments of heartache."

Miller purchased art with the word "melanin" on it to bring back to her office, where she says young people drop by for help.

"Unfortunately most of the youth that we see are youth of color and so for me, it's important that they know that they matter and so I want to make the space as welcoming as possible," she said.

Human resources representatives were also there to discuss career opportunities. Employees say Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota is hiring for a number of positions.  

The Pan-African Employee Resource Group chairperson says the event will return next year.

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