Juneteenth, As told by our Heroes

words by

Naomi Augustin

December 05, 2023

culture hack

Juneteenth, As told by our Heroes

Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. It is also a reminder of the continuous pursuit of racial equality and justice.

This month, we had the privilege of speaking to one of our Heroes, Joanne Sylvestre, our Multicultural Planning Senior Director on what Juneteenth means to her.

When asked about their customary Juneteenth celebrations, Joanne shares: "To celebrate, my friends and I come together for a cookout, and we also coordinate our outfits with matching t-shirts. In the past, before companies acknowledged the significance of Juneteenth, I would take personal time off on the preceding Friday."

Joanne's response reminds us of the significance of community and unity during Juneteenth celebrations.

However, Joanne raises an important concern regarding the potential pitfalls of commercialization. When asked how the observance of Juneteenth has evolved over the years, she shares: " Juneteenth evolved with corporate recognition which is a gift and a curse as superficial support from certain brands, like 'Juneteenth Ice Cream,' can be problematic. Brands that genuinely want to honor this pivotal moment in history should avoid attempts to monetize it, especially if the profits are not reinvested in black-owned companies." This underscores the need for authentic and meaningful recognition of Juneteenth, urging companies to prioritize substance over empty gestures in their efforts to commemorate the holiday.

As our founder and chief Hero, Joe Anthony, stated in 2020, "By respecting, safeguarding, and promoting all aspects of Black culture and enterprise, you are tapping into formidable consumer and cultural opportunities. Black culture is powerful, and it must be treated in its full humanity. Anything less will not be accepted." Juneteenth serves as a tribute to the progress made in achieving racial equality for the Black community, but it is equally important to emphasize that celebrating and recognizing their culture should be a continuous effort throughout the year, not limited to a single day.

As we approach Juneteenth, we’re hoping new traditions continue to form in celebrating the contributions and resilience of the Black community. By actively participating in Juneteenth celebrations and engaging in cultural learning experiences, we honor the past and continue to make a positive impact.

With that, I leave you with a Happy Juneteenth! And if you’re in NYC, don’t forget to check out the MANY events happening across the city, especially Bed-Stuy!

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