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Black Centered Juneteenth

Monday, June 19, is Juneteenth Day, a federal holiday that recognizes on June 19, 1865, more than 250,000 enslaved Africans in Galveston, Texas, were finally freed in Texas, ending chattel slavery in the United States.

Hello, I’m Johnicon George Sr., owner of Icon Connects, LLC. Welcome to the Real Social Change Blog.

A week ago, I read an article about the backlash Black organizers of a Juneteenth Mega Fest received from locals in Greenville, South Carolina, concerning a Juneteenth banner displaying a White couple.

The Black residents expressed anger, disappointment, and sadness when they saw the banner hanging from the lamp post in downtown Greenville.

Other banners promoting the event depicted non-Blacks. However, the banner that caused the most outrage, causing it to go viral on social media, was the one featuring White people.

The Black community asked the organizers, “Why would you put the descendants of the people who put us in chains on a banner that celebrates our freedom?”

Black people on social media and YouTube broadcasts called out the organizers’ decision as well.

The Greenville Black community assured the public that all are welcome to attend the city’s mega fest. However, they believe the Juneteenth celebration should remain Black centered.

The locals called for a boycott of the event should the banner remain.

Meanwhile, the Black business leaders making up the Juneteenth Greenville board defended the banner, saying they were formulated to reflect diversity. They believe, “Now that Black people have a seat at the table, the last thing we want to do is what’s been for years is to exclude.”

The intent was to promote unity, love, and freedom. The organizers believe that making the celebration exclusively Black doesn’t promote the “spirit of unity.” Nor does it achieve Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).

I certainly understand the Greenville community’s feelings. Black people are still reeling from the effects of slavery, oppression, and racism that continue today.

For all that Black Americans have earned, fought for, and died for in this country, across the board, we’re still not where we should be. Whereas other ethnic groups, including White women who were slave owners, too, benefitted from the Black struggle.

In 2023, we’re still fighting for legislation that non-Blacks have already received.

Yep, I can see why the banners, specifically with the White couple, triggered the Greenville Black community.

On the other hand, as a DEI proponent, I get the Juneteenth organizers’ push for a gathering that would promote unity, love, and freedom, leading to healing in the community. But a one-day event or lip service can’t substitute for the work required first to achieve diversity, equity, and inclusion.

DEI work demands real action for sustainable change that includes ongoing commitment and accountability to ensure that Black people, especially, receive access to transformative opportunities.

For example, how many Black people inside a DEI corporation occupy mid and upper-level management positions? What does the pay equity scale look like when it comes to Black employees and others? What about job promotions? What recruitment strategies are initiated to bring in more Black people?

Back to the Juneteenth event, the gathering shouldn’t be exclusively Black. However, Black culture should dominate the marketing materials and be the face of Juneteenth!

We’re the only ethnic group who endured chattel slavery in the United States for centuries that shouldn’t be watered down or minimized to make others feel comfortable. I’ll say it again for the folks sitting in the balcony. “We’re the only ethnic group who endured chattel slavery in the United States for centuries that shouldn’t be watered down or minimized to make others feel comfortable.”

Juneteenth events should serve as an opportunity to not only celebrate freedom, but to educate about issues still affecting the Black community, provide factual Black History information and strategic tools for Black empowerment.

Promoting Black businesses and vendors at Juneteenth events remains vital. Once, the Black population was among the most thriving of any of the ethnic groups in America because of Black unity and support.

No, we shouldn’t shy away from standing up, standing out, and preserving the sacredness of our holidays. Nor be ashamed of our rich history.

As for an update on the situation in Greenville, the organizers apologized to the Black community and removed the banner. The Black community has been traumatized for centuries. Long-term healing requires understanding and patience with each other.

The Real Social Change Blog is a community blog. Please feel free to submit DEI topics you want to see discussed. If your suggested topic is selected, you can choose an Icon Connects SWAG bag or a $50 value MARY KAY gift basket!

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See you next month!

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