Observing Juneteenth in 2021
Juneteenth. There is momentum for one of America’s oldest holidays as more people acknowledge and celebrate Emancipation Day.
Momentum for Juneteenth was at an MFactor of 80 at this time last year. Juneteenth was a high velocity and high mass topic as many learned of the holiday’s historic importance.
The 2020 Black Lives Matter movement was one of the catalysts for corporations, brands and individuals to recognize Juneteenth. In 2020 NYC declared Juneteenth an official city holiday and public school holiday. Brands like Estée Lauder Companies, Nike, Levi’s (and Decode_M!) recognized it as a company holiday. Activists reignited their fight for federal observance.
Momentum for Juneteenth in 2021 is on the rise again: up from a low of 8 in April to a high of 22 this week and rising. Juneteenth is a high mass, lower velocity topic as more people are aware of Juneteenth.
Research revealed that even though Juneteenth had high momentum in 2020, many had heard about it for the first time in 2020 but did not actually acknowledge or celebrate it. This year, they have a better idea as to how the holiday should be acknowledged and celebrated and are looking for their companies and brands to guide them.
Performative, tokenizing, appropriative and overly-politicized acknowledgments of Juneteenth. Companies, brands and organizations can misstep in their acknowledgment of Juneteenth by:
- Making empty statements/commitments to racial progress without actions or follow ups
- Acknowledging and centering a particular minority on “their day” and that day only
- Using Juneteenth as a way to sell products and make profits. Juneteenth should not be used as a money-generating moment for corporations
- Taking a strong stance and being overly-political when it’s not in line with how your brand / company typically responds to issues
WHAT’S NEXT? Brands and businesses authentically acknowledging Juneteenth understand that how they recognize Juneteenth varies by celebrant — taking into consideration that different racial groups will have different observations of Juneteenth in 2021. For example:
- For people whose families were enslaved in the US: Juneteenth is a recognition of emancipation from slavery. Some may use the day to celebrate or continue to work on behalf of the advancement of marginalized communities.
- For people whose families did not experience slavery in the US: Juneteenth will be a day of reflection, education, and personal advocacy. There’s some sensitivity that non-BIPOC people may disrespect the holiday, “whitewash” it or treat it as if it’s any other “day off” — ignoring the anti-racism intention.
DEEP DIVE (3.5 minute read)
Here’s how Juneteenth is hitting on all 5 drivers of momentum in 2021…
DISRUPTION: Juneteenth is a national holiday — it’s no longer a local celebration.
The holiday that was typically celebrated on a state-by-state and local community basis will be observed en masse this year — in large part due to corporate action.
INNOVATION: Juneteenth will be acknowledged and celebrated in a variety of ways depending on the celebrant.
Some will be celebrating with parades and street festivals. Companies will be acknowledging the day by bringing in BIPOC speakers, offering diversity training in a way that brings people across the company together and creating initiatives or commitments to start addressing racial inequities that might exist.
- Apple Music’s new original playlist titled Juneteenth 2021 Freedom Songs featuring artists such as Black Thought, D Smoke, H.E.R., Kirk Franklin, Chloe x Halle, Tobe Nwigwe and more.
- “2021 marks an important moment in Black History with Juneteenth finally being recognized as a holiday by cities and states across America. Until now, many people were not taught about the importance of June 19th in public schools and corporations and state governments weren’t giving time off. This is a very big moment in history that the mainstream is embracing and acknowledging the day enslaved Black Africans were set free from physical bondage by the US government — a painful part of American history that can no longer be a side-note… Our teams at Apple Music are pushing the Black Music Month conversation internationally, working to make sure the world understands that all popular music today was started by Black people. The significance of these recognitions is helping normalize the truth and the trauma done to Black people worldwide by white supremacy and racism.” — Ebro Darden, Apple Music Global Head of Hip-Hop and R&B
- The New York Times is hosting their second event in their series Black History Continued with guest speakers Questlove, Esperanza Spalding, Dr. Shamell Bell and Brooklyn based activist group The Lay Out.
POLARIZATION: Juneteenth continues to raise conflicting emotions.
Historically Juneteenth has been a celebratory occasion — “Independence Day” for Black Americans.
For companies and brands: there is still ambiguity on the proper way to acknowledge Juneteenth. Research shows that “Happy Juneteenth” may not be appropriate. “Acknowledge” may be more fitting for the holiday.
STICKINESS: Companies and brands that issued statements in 2020 promising to do better should be prepared to give an update on progress towards their goals. Consumers/activists will be looking for tangible, measured progress.
SOCIAL IMPACT: Employers and brands can provide their employees & consumers with resources and opportunities to donate and volunteer with appropriate organizations.
For example, the History Channel will be honoring and educating about Juneteenth by airing a documentary executive-produced and narrated by NBA champion and social justice advocate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Titled Fight the Power: The Movements That Changed America, the one-hour documentary chronicles the social justice movements that helped reshape American history, The Root reports. The Juneteenth release date commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. In 2019, all but four states regarded Juneteenth as a holiday, CNN reports. In February, lawmakers came together to make the day a national holiday.