Rahkim Sabree is a Connecticut-based financial coach, speaker and columnist. He is the author of the book, “Financially Irresponsible.”
As we gear up to celebrate Juneteenth, brands across the country are launching products, events and marketing strategies to try and cash in on the holiday.
And as a consumer, you might be tempted to take out your wallet and get to swiping. A deal’s a deal, right? If it helps put money behind a good cause, all the better.
Here’s the problem.
Monetizing the celebration of Black freedom contradicts the very sentiment that drives Juneteenth.
Time and again, Black culture, talent and pain have been coopted for capital gain. The recent attempt—since abandoned—by the white-owned health and food company, Balchem Corp., to trademark the word Juneteenth is a perfect example. So is Walmart’s Juneteenth-themed ice cream. Many of the banners, flags, bracelets and other trinkets sold by non-Black creators under the guise of “allyship” are equally offensive.
The stakes are incredibly high. Black people were among this country’s first forms of currency, and the celebration of Juneteenth reminds us of that not-so-distant past. Giving your money to white-owned businesses that slap Black fists on their packaging as a marketing strategy can add insult to injury.
On the flip side, supporting businesses that are Black-owned puts wealth directly into the hands of Black people. It contributes to closing a racial wealth gap that has made the average white American family roughly 10 times richer than the average Black American family. And it helps Black business owners and creators take a step closer to financial freedom.
Here’s how to do it.
What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth commemorates the June 19th, 1865 executive decree freeing more than 250,000 enslaved Black people in Texas. This announcement came nearly 2 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, and ushered in the reconstruction era of this country’s history. It has been celebrated by free Black people ever since. In the words of The National Museum of African American History and Culture, “Juneteenth marks our country’s second independence day.”
The police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd in the summer of 2020 stoked interest in the day being recognized as a national holiday. Juneteenth officially became a federal holiday in 2021, in the wake of nationwide protests against police brutality, with organizations across the country issuing time off to all employees on June 19th.
A year later, Juneteenth holds different degrees of significance to different people. To some, it may represent just another day off. To others, it’s about progress in our country’s recognition of historical atrocities against Black people.
How to support Juneteenth and Black creators
To put it bluntly, the only people who should benefit monetarily from Juneteenth celebrations are Black people. So individuals looking to join in the celebration of “Emancipation day” or “Freedom day” can best contribute by doing their due diligence in determining which Juneteenth-branded products are created by, and actually benefit, Black people.
Seek out the websites and social media accounts of Black entrepreneurs and Black-owned brands promoting their own Juneteenth products. You can even directly ask a brand advertising Juneteenth merchandise if it is Black-owned, and if it isn’t, ask what it’s doing to provide capital and resources to the Black community. (It’s worth knowing that even some of the businesses that represent a staple in Black communities, with products geared directly towards Black consumers, are white-owned.)
This Monday, public and private Juneteenth celebrations will be happening around the country, and across the internet.
On an individual level, there is no “right” way for a member of the Black community to honor the holiday, so it’s crucial to be respectful of how someone chooses to celebrate — or not celebrate. Demonstrating a genuine interest in understanding the holiday, as well as the pain associated with it, is important, but take the initiative to do your own research instead of relying on Black people to educate you.
The same goes for deciding how to spend your money.
A few extra seconds of research can be the difference between supporting a Black-owned business and supporting what looks like a Black-owned business. If you truly want to support the celebration of Black emancipation, it’s best not to assume.
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