Juneteenth is in danger of losing its meaning

Juneteenth is meant to acknowledge the emancipation of blacks from enslavement, but there is a danger that it will turn into another holiday, defined more by road trips and sales on mattresses.

The Big Picture: Businesses, retailers and some local governments are struggling to figure out how to celebrate the holiday commemorating the end of slavery.

why does it matter: Juneteenth became a federal holiday just last year. This year is the first time it’s a vacation that anyone can plan for.

what are they saying: “When you live in a community like ours, there is always a risk that these kinds of vacations will be absorbed into some kind of market or some kind of consumer-driven logic or experience,” Eddie S. Glaud, chair of the Africa American Studies department at Princeton University, told Axios.

  • “You don’t just want to market it,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner told Axios. “This isn’t just another day you’re just taking off.” “It is a day of freedom and liberation for the people who were once slaves and who have been set free.”

Yes, but: Some companies use Juneteenth as an opportunity for branding and community service.

  • Power Home Remodeling—one of the nation’s largest exterior home remodeling companies— kicks off its inaugural Juneteenth Atlanta walk with a walking tour of black historic sites and outings to black-owned businesses.
  • Delta Air Lines and American Family Insurance announced their participation in Unlock Potential, an employment program focused on racial equality for at-risk youth and aimed at preventing incarceration.

background: Juneteenth has been celebrated for years in Houston and Galveston, Texas, to commemorate U.S. Major General Gordon Granger’s issuance of General Order No. 3 during the Civil War.

  • This decree declared that, according to the Emancipation Proclamation, “all slaves are free.” Texas was one of the last places in the United States where slaves learned about emancipation.
  • This day has been celebrated for decades in the Houston area with cooking, parades, concerts, and lectures as a way to bring back the excitement of hope and liberation.
  • Juneteenth celebrations have become more and more prominent across the country in recent years and have become a rallying point after the murder of George Floyd, helping to build momentum to make it a federal holiday.

Bottom line: “Whether you’re having a barbecue and eating a red velvet cake on Juneteenth and not thinking about slavery at all, or whether it’s a program organized so we can think about it…without the holiday, these two are different people,” Skins said.

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