One of the good things about Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday, which, after years of work officially happened last June, is that it brings attention to the story behind the celebration. But one of the not-so-great things about it, according to Twitter, is that it also brings about opportunities for people to put attention on it for the sole purpose of making money.
This past weekend, while some of the country was experiencing a serious heat wave, people were talking about ice cream, but not to help folks brave the rising temperatures. On Twitter, many were sharing their confusion and disdain over a Juneteenth ice cream from Walmart. Granted, it sounded somewhat delicious, a swirled red velvet with cheesecake flavor, but the look of it, with its pan-African colors (and a splash of yellow), Black hands giving the high-five and its message, “Share and celebrate African-American culture, emancipation and enduring hope,” felt a bit sleazy coming from a Great Value carton of ice cream.
As comedian Kevin Fredericks also pointed out, Walmart has gone all out with all things Juneteenth, including apparel, party supplies, wine and products too.
The more you know.
The consensus online has been that the ice cream and the overload of products is an attempt to water down a holiday that is very serious (more on that in a bit). It also highlights what happens when the mainstream (read: white people) get their hands on things (read: anything) that is embraced by Black people.
But there are also a section of people who ask, what’s the big deal? There are party supplies, decorations and everything else for just about all holidays that are widely observed. And now that Juneteenth is a federal holiday and more employers are making it a day off for employees, these types of things are bound to be made. Commercialization of holidays is the norm, hence why you can barely get past Christmas before all things Valentine’s Day start popping up in aisles.
Points have been made all around. I can see both sides of the coin: why a Walmart ice cream for Juneteenth would come off as tacky but also why the uproar over it could also be exhausting. How is the significant delay of freedom of Black people in Galveston (a truly egregious thing that lasted for more than two years) and slavery as a whole being acknowledged by some T-shirts and dairy products from a retail corporation? It’s not.
But who didn’t see this coming? Juneteenth ice cream is laughable, but shocking? No. You’re not about to stop big businesses from trying to see if they can get it where they fit in.
That being said, because the criticism from people online likely won’t be able to quell excessive attempts to “celebrate” Juneteenth, it’s best to use these moments as a reminder of why you should buy Black. As pointed out on Twitter, Walmart also sells Black-owned brand Creamalicious, who has the same red velvet and cheesecake flavored ice cream called “Right as Rain.” Want to buy Juneteenth party supplies for your gathering or cookout? We Celebrate Black, which is Black-woman owned, has plenty of options. Want a Juneteenth wine? Scrap that idea in place of buying a bottle from any of the many Black-owned winemakers, whether Sip and Share Wines or something from the McBride Sisters Winery, Love Cork Screw and more.
Holidays are commercialized and it’s unfortunate, but the same way it’s up to you to call April’s biggest holiday Resurrection Sunday rather than Easter, it’s also on you to spread the word about Juneteenth on a deeper level. Hopefully the backlash becomes an opportunity to support Black businesses, and more importantly, to become more educated on the holiday if not already.
Now that it’s a federal holiday, we can’t control how other people consume it, but we can make our own efforts to ensure that Juneteenth becomes an opportunity for conversation — of how we can uplift entrepreneurs within the community, of the significance of what occurred on June 19, 1865 — rather than just making it another cash cow holiday for those who could really care less about it.