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A Look into the History of Juneteenth

This article was published on June 19, 2020

There are no words to convey the outrage and sadness that we feel over the events that have taken place in the past few weeks sparked by the death of George Floyd. Through his story, we recognize there are many more names of men and women we’ll never know because they did not command the global spotlight.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” As the ripple effects of George Floyd’s death are reverberating around the world, we want you to know that Black Lives Matter to Vonage.

In the last few weeks, the world has witnessed the growing pains of a country still in turmoil from not yet coming to terms with the aftershocks of slavery and America’s ongoing history of systemic racism. 

We have been transfixed seeing people from around the world gathering to raise their voices to proclaim Black Lives Matter.

We have had our eyes brutally reopened. In a country where we quote “Justice for all” and learn that “all are created equal,” we realize that, for many, these words are reflective more of an aspiration than a reality. We now understand that this legacy is one that requires unceasing commitment and effort - to nurture its roots, to extend it to all, and to ensure its enduring strength. This is no easy task.

We know that we must all do more to listen to the conversations that are happening and commit to tackling systemic inequality. We are committed to standing together with the Black community - our colleagues, our partners, our customers, our family, our friends. We will use our collective voice to help send out a call to action. As Maya Angelou once said, “When you know better, do better.” In the spirit of doing better, we would like to spotlight an important yet often overlooked date in American history: June 19th, 1865, also known as Juneteenth.

Juneteenth - A time to celebrate

Today marks the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth and it is the oldest commemoration recognizing the end of slavery in America. Juneteenth has not always received the recognition it deserved. To understand its significance, we must explore its origin. On January 1, 1863, with the stroke of his pen, President Abraham Lincoln’s “Emancipation Proclamation” declared that "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free." Sadly, this news didn’t reach the enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, until nearly two and a half years later. On June 19th, 1865, Union soldiers arrived to inform the people of Texas that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, “all slaves are free.” The following year, the newly-freed men and women in Texas celebrated the anniversary with prayer services and church gatherings. 

Through the years, Juneteenth has grown from being a local celebration to one that is recognized on a national level. Around the country, festivities include parades, readings, processions, and many more community-minded activities in the spirit of bringing people together and finding a reason to celebrate in spite of this painful period in American history. Following hundreds of years of enslavement, newly-freed men and women dove into their next chapter, creating schools, running for political office, applying for patents, writing books, and practicing medicine. 

At Vonage, we condemn racial discrimination and injustice and reaffirm our commitment to fostering and promoting inclusion and fairness so that it simply becomes part of the fabric of Vonage’s culture. We know we don’t have all the answers, but we are committed to doing the work necessary to keep moving forward. I am proud to say that our employees are very passionate and vocal about affecting change. So many of our employees have come to us, sharing their ideas on how we can expand upon our commitment to inclusion and fairness, and we have committed to taking action and working with them to do more.

We are inspired by their passion and grateful to them for helping to make Vonage become a Destination Place to Work that is inclusive and fair for all. We’ve also announced that we’ll be launching a new Inclusion and Fairness Advisory Board. This global task force will be designed to reflect the many voices, histories and stories our employees bring to Vonage. As we learn and listen to the conversations that are going on right now, we remain committed to creating an inclusive culture that enables growth and opportunity for all. We will be part of the solution - we will stand up to racial injustice.

Alan Masarek
By Alan Masarek CEO

Chief Executive Officer, Director Alan Masarek joined Vonage (NYSE:VG) as the Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors in November 2014. Since then, Mr. Masarek has ushered in an era of transformation for Vonage, driving the company’s rapid growth and evolution from a residential home phone provider into a global business cloud communications leader. Through a series of strategic acquisitions, coupled with fast, organic growth and internal technology development, Mr. Masarek has created a culture of agility, technology innovation and customer centricity. An innovator with deep experience in mobile, SMB and Enterprise sectors, Mr. Masarek came to Vonage from Google, Inc., where he was Director, Chrome & Apps from June 2012 until October 2014, following the acquisition of his prior company, Quickoffice, Inc. Mr. Masarek was the Co-founder of Quickoffice, Inc., one of the world’s most widely recognized mobile brands, and served as its Chief Executive Officer from July 2007 until June 2012. Under his leadership, Quickoffice became the world’s most widely embedded mobile productivity software, with a top-grossing iPad app and a top 10 grossing app in the Google Play Store, engaging more than 26 million registered users at the time of Google’s purchase. Mr. Masarek earned his M.B.A., with Distinction, from Harvard Business School and his B.B.A., Magna Cum Laude, from the University of Georgia.

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