Three reasons brands should not exploit Juneteenth

Juneteenth
(CREDIT: Shutterstock)

We are just weeks away from what recently became a federal holiday, Juneteenth.

Juneteenth celebrates the freedom of enslaved people in the United States at the end of the Civil War. On June 19, 1865, nearly 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay, Texas.

The army announced that the more than 250,000 enslaved black people in the state, were free by executive decree. This day came to be known as “Juneteenth,” by the newly freed people in Texas. For more than 150 years, African American communities across the country have observed this holiday.

This isn’t something new to our communities but with the federal recognition, many companies have started to capitalize on the opportunity to drive a relevant cultural moment for marketing purposes. This is unequivocally a wrong move. Why?

1 – It is a holiday that marks the end of 200+ years of slavery, bondage and abuse of African-Americans. It is a celebration of resilience – not a marketing moment, carefully-crafted social media post, or latest African-American-targeted innovation drop.

2 – Juneteenth is a time for African Americans to gather as a collective, reflect on the past with hope towards the future. It is a celebration of hope – not a marketing moment, carefully-crafted social media post, or latest African-American-targeted innovation drop.

3 – The struggle is not over. While Juneteenth celebrated our “unofficial” emancipation, the truth is that recent times has shown us that we are still fighting for our freedom every day. Even in 2022. We are still fighting to feel safe shopping at grocery stores, going to church, going for a run, or just sitting in our homes. So this Juneteenth we will come together as a collective and we may experience joy with one another – but that fleeting moment will be sacred – not a marketing moment, carefully-crafted social media post, or latest African-American-targeted innovation drop.


REELated: Read about others on The Reel Black List


Here are some ideas for things your organization can do to recognize Juneteenth:

  • Donate scholarship funds to an HBCU to send deserving student(s) to college.
  • Support Black-owned businesses by bringing them on as suppliers and contractors on major company initiatives.
  • Create systems to support your Black employees through sustainable recruitment and advancement programs at your organization.

Focus your organization on creating sustainable initiatives to dismantle systemic racism because true freedom is far from being achieved.

Lizette Williams is a leading marketing and advertising executive with expertise at driving the convergence of brands, culture and digital. She has worked across Fortune 50 companies driving consumer-centric growth strategies focused on cultural relevancy. She is one of the foremost-awarded marketing executives in the field and was also inducted into the American Advertising Federation Advertising Hall of Achievement, the premier industry recognition for leaders under 40 who are making a significant impact in the industry and their communities. She has been listed as Crain’s Chicago Business “40 under 40,” Advertising Age “Women to Watch,” and Black Enterprise “Top Women Executives in Advertising and Marketing.”


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