Juneteenth is this Sunday, commemorating the day in 1865 when the last enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, were officially told that the Civil War was over and that they were free. It came two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation.
Last year, President Joe Biden signed a new law, making June 19 a federal holiday. It joins other summer holidays like July 4, which retailers have used to market and sell products.
There are fears companies will try to capitalize on Juneteenth.
North Carolina mom Darian Alexis McNeal spotted a Juneteenth branded ice cream while shopping with her son at Walmart in May. She shared her disappointment on social media and the post went viral.
“They would never drop ice cream to celebrate Auschwitz, you know, the liberation of Auschwitz. We don’t get the same sensitivity when it comes to the Holocaust, basically, of our own people,” McNeal says.
Walmart removed the ice cream and apologized. But it is not the only one marketing the holiday.
A search for Juneteenth items among online sellers like Amazon and J.C. Penney produced everything from toothpicks with pan-African flags to party plates and balloons.
“What I don’t want Juneteenth to be become is reduced and regulated to, you know, just a mattress day sale,” says Laquan Austion, Founder of the Juneteenth Foundation.
Austion believes instead of pushing products, corporations can use the day to promote diversity and equity within their companies. And he says the best way for American families to celebrate is to reflect on the holiday’s importance and invest in communities of color.
“Go out and buy Black. Use this as a singular day to go out and support local Black businesses in the community. Us supporting each other is a critical component of it,” Austion says.