Employees angry after Toyota’s Kansas City office serves only watermelon for Juneteenth


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — A national employer is under fire from some of its own Kansas City workers after they said the company served only watermelon to celebrate Juneteenth.

Those employees also said they have photos to prove it.

“Acknowledge us as people. Stop taking us as a joke,” said Jarret Bolden, an employee at Toyota.

It happened at the Toyota distribution center in Kansas City. Two workers spoke exclusively to Nexstar’s WDAF, and the company explained how it all happened. 

In pictures below provided to WDAF, you can see the only food offered was watermelon.

(Kimberly McCarthy)

“I turned around and asked a member that’s on the DNI team — which is the diversity and inclusion team — I said, ‘What the heck? This isn’t OK.’ And he just laughed,” said Kim McCarthy, who has worked at the plant for nine years.

WDAF asked McCarthy if they served anything else, and she responded, “No, just watermelon.”

Bolden has worked at the plant for four years. As a Black man, he said things like this make coming into this environment and having to work very difficult.

“A slap in the face, very disrespectful, you know. They preach Black lives matter, but [it’s] kind of like they were making a joke out of us,” Bolden said.

Bolden said he shouldn’t have to encounter this sort of racism when he goes to work. 

To compound the problem, both Bolden and McCarthy said the entire diversity and inclusion team is white. Toyota’s corporate communication team did not respond to WDAF when asked if that was true.

Watermelon served as a key to freedom for many freed slaves, who, according to historians, grew, ate, and sold the fruit. Though it became a symbol of their freedom, others used watermelons to create smear campaigns, to shame African Americans, promote bigotry and draw negative attention in order to squash the ability of free Black people to make money.

Toyota’s corporate communications told WDAF that context matters and sent the following statement:  

“To embrace the Juneteenth holiday, a summer intern coordinated a celebration activity that included a presentation focused on the history, activities and foods of Freedom Day. This presentation was based on the individual’s personal experience celebrating the holiday with their family. In line with our core value of respect for people, Toyota supports educational activities that bring awareness and understanding of diverse cultures.” 

They also told WDAF that bringing in watermelon was approved by multiple people in their leadership team.  

But Bolden and McCarthy just want to see some accountability.  

“I would like for management to at least apologize and accept that we are upset about it. They have yet to do that even,” McCarthy said.  


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