With June, came many opportunities for marginalized communities to stand together in solidarity with one another through sharing a common identity and culture. Last month, we commemorated both Juneteenth and Pride Month.
Both of these times are filled with remembrance, mourning, and grief for those lost to hate and violence, as well as excitement and joy for today and hope for tomorrow. In short, many communities celebrate a common identity in June. This shared celebration is something that many organizations often look to as an opportunity for community campaigns and social involvement, as well as increased profit.
And the reach for profit seemed to dominate the headlines and the shelves this June. In the light of this sad reality, I want to share some meaningful ways organizations can continue centering, supporting, and edifying Black and LGBTQ+ communities beyond June, as discussed in my weekly LinkedIn audio gathering– The DEI ER. Because after all, Black & LGBTQ+ people do exist beyond June… and so do the inequities and injustices that threaten that very existence.
Honoring Juneteenth Beyond June
As many of you might have seen, last month Walmart released a new ice cream called “Celebration Edition: Juneteenth” featuring a red velvet cheesecake flavor. The container of the ice cream is red, green, and gold, along with images of music notes and Black arms holding hands and high fiving, along with some giving peace signs. Also on the container are the words “Our Story: Share and Celebrate African-American Culture, emancipation, and enduring hope.” Similar items available elsewhere “commemorating” Juneteenth included paper plates and party supplies with the words “It's the freedom for me.”
My main problems with products like these are they:
- capitalize on and profit off of the Black community, yet provide no benefit to the Black community
- co-opt and commercialize Black vernacular (i.e. “It’s the freedom for me”)
- further commercialize the legacy of slavery.
On May 27, 2022, in The DEI ER– the weekly LinkedIn Audio Event series I host each Friday at 11 am EST– I, along with my guests Sharon Hurley-Hall, founder of Sharon’s Anti-Racism Newsletter, and Lisa Hurley, a host and producer on the web series Real Talk on Racism, discussed this debacle, our concerns, and ultimately how organizations can respectfully and responsibly recognize Juneteenth.
During the episode, we discussed many of the respectful ways in which organizations can go about recognizing Juneteenth. Among the many highlights from our conversation were:
- Partner with Black-owned businesses to produce Juneteenth-inspired products. Hire Black design firms and manufacturing companies to design and build products, then feature them throughout the sales platforms.
- Donate proceeds and profits from the sale of Juneteenth-inspired products to organizations that directly have a positive impact on Black lives and communities.
- Offer Juneteenth as a paid day of volunteerism, featuring events and activities that anti-racist employees can participate in to serve their communities through what Hurley-Hall referred to as “sweat equity.”
- Provide culturally resonant educational resources, both in-office and online, to educate employees on the history and significance of Juneteenth, without adding to the burden that Black employees have to bear.
- Book and compensate Black speakers, activists, educators, etc. for such educational services utilizing platforms such as the Black Speakers Collection and the Black Speakers Network.
Throughout our conversation, it was made clear that organizations need to listen to and hear the voice of a consumer community before creating products “highlighting” or targeting the said community. It can certainly be difficult to perfectly target a large and diverse identity, such as a racial or ethnic group. So, when developing gestures, products, or services aimed to appeal to such identity groups, leaders should ask:
Who is centered in this gesture, and who benefits from it?
The answer to both of those questions should be the very identity group the organization is aiming to “highlight.”
In recent years, several companies have gone beyond making Juneteenth a paid holiday and have utilized infrastructure and resources to amplify Black voices both surrounding and beyond Juneteenth. Best Buy introduced scholarships for HBCU students. Media companies Vox and Capital B have launched a partnership for a new editorial initiative examining Juneteenth’s legacy, and ice cream company Ben and Jerry’s even launched a Juneteenth Resource Guide.
Marsha P. Johnson and fellow activist Sylvia Rivera
Both leading up to Juneteenth and following through the remainder of the month was, of course, Pride Month! Beginning with the Stonewall Riots of June 1969, led in large part by activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, Pride Month has grown into a global effort to center, uplift, and celebrate Queer love and Queer identities.
In an article I recently posted, “How To Be an Effective Ally to the Trans Community During Pride Month…and Beyond,” I covered several ways to be an advocate and ally for the LGBTQ+ community, one of which is asking for and seeking out an intersectional approach to all LGBTQ+ focused work.
With this in mind, we would be remiss not to note that when we are talking about Pride Month and its history, we are talking about the work, activism, and legacy of Black trans women and trans women of color. The intersection of Juneteenth and Pride Month creates the perfect opportunity to understand issues through a lens that validates, affirms, and celebrates all of the many lived experiences and truths behind identity groups as immense as those recognized by Juneteenth and Pride Month.
So, what is your role, regardless of identity? To ally and advocate for all LGBTQ+ voices both at work and in your daily life. As you search to get more involved in LGBTQ+ allyship efforts, know that several organizations bring education, service, and engagement to LGBTQ+ communities and their allies.
- The Trevor Project
- The Center for Black Equity
- Trans Lifeline
- The Marsha P. Johnson Institute
To help others build their LGBTQ+ allyship, and to further develop your own, be sure to also check out these resources below:
- GLSEN's Guide to Pronouns
- LGBTQ History from GLSEN
- National Institutes of Health’s LGBTQ+ Terminology Guide
While Pride Month is certainly cause for celebration and it is wonderful to see so many rainbows for 30 days straight, a scary fact remains– LGBTQ+ rights, liberties, and freedoms are being attacked. This year alone– and it is only July– over 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures all over the country. Effective allyship, beyond the performative 30-day sprint that is June, is needed now as much as it’s ever been.
As July rolls on and summer turns into Autumn, let us not forget to center and champion Black LGBTQ+ voices until next Juneteenth and Pride Month. I invite us all to think intersectionally, all year round, about how we support and amplify Black and queer voices.