Atlanta IKEA sparks outrage over Juneteenth menu of fried chicken, watermelon

“None of the coworkers who sat down to create the menu, no one was Black," said an employee of the Swedish company.

A Juneteenth special menu at an Atlanta IKEA sparked outrage among the Black employees who said fried chicken and watermelon were some of the items selected to celebrate the holiday. 

Last week, President Joe Biden officially signed legislation making Juneteenth a federal holiday. The date commemorates June 19, 1865, when slaves in Galveston, Texas, were informed of their freedom two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. 

An Atlanta IKEA store celebrated the holiday with a special menu that was created to “honor Black Americans.” 

Employees who spoke anonymously to CBS Atlanta affiliate WGCL-TV due to fear of repercussions said the store’s management sent out an email last week informing them of the menu for customers and employees.

It featured mac and cheese, collard greens, and watermelon, which “caused a lot of people to be upset,” and “people actually wanted to quit, people weren’t coming back to work,” employees said. 

The email noted that the menu was one way to “honor the perseverance of Black Americans and acknowledge the progress yet to be made.”

But Black staffers called the Juneteenth menu insensitive, and CBS News reports that many didn’t show up for work on June 19. Some even considered quitting. 

“You cannot say serving watermelon on Juneteenth is a soul food menu when you don’t even know the history, they used to feed slaves watermelon during the slave time,” an anonymous employee told CBS46’s, Tori Cooper. 

While fried chicken and watermelon are popular delights that many Black Americans enjoy eating, there’s something triggering about such foods being served in a public space to celebrate Blackness and the abolishment of slavery. 

“None of the coworkers who sat down to create the menu, no one was Black,” one anonymous staffer said.
The IKEA logo is shown outside the company’s store in Delft, the Netherlands. (Photo by Michel Porro/Getty Images)

IKEA employees were so outraged over the menu that 33 people called out from work, prompting the store manager to issue an apology email on Saturday. It said in part, “I truly apologize if the menu came off as subjective.

It was created with the best of intentions by a few of our coworkers who believed they were representing their culture and tradition with these foods of celebration.”

The menu was reportedly changed amid the uproar but employees said, “They just delayed the menu by a day. Thinking that everyone who was upset by the Juneteenth menu stayed home on Juneteenth and wouldn’t notice, which just added insult to injury.”

The revised menu included collard greens, cornbread, mashed potatoes, and meatloaf, according to employees.

“I’m just frankly disappointed in the learning process, you shouldn’t learn after you have insulted all of your Black employees,” one customer said.

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