From its very inception, Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S., was late to receive the recognition it deserved. Enslaved people in Galveston, Texas weren’t told of their freedom until June 19, 1865, two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation and more than two months after the end of the Civil War.
Now, more than 150 years later, it is poised to become a federal holiday in the U.S., carried on a wave of righteous anger and overdue introspection. The ad industry, too, is seeing new interest in honoring the holiday. Just two years ago, it would have been tough to find an agency that observed Juneteenth in any official capacity.
Like so many other things, 2020 changed that. Last year, in the wake of the resurgence of Black Lives Matter, many agencies gave employees the day off for reflection or cultural activities. While there was some concern it might be a one-off gesture, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Omnicom, BBDO, DDB, The Martin Agency, Mediaocean, Deutsch, Ogilvy, Huge, Endeavor, Dagger and VMLY&R have all permanently added Juneteenth to their holiday calendars (observed on Friday, Jun. 18 since the actual holiday falls on Saturday this year).
But many shops are also programming events, panels and meals to celebrate. Here’s what agencies have planned for this year’s Juneteenth.
BBDO New York
IDEA, the employee-led Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Allyship group, is hosting an event in downtown New York City. “The Joy: Celebrating liberation in observance of Juneteenth” features food from Brooklyn Braised, music by DJ Quiana Parks, a spoken word performance from storyteller Cyrus Aaron and a short film by Jason Kim.
On Juneteenth itself, BBDO NY is sponsoring a celebration in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park with community group The Lay Out, which has been organizing social justice and anti-racism events. The agency is covering the live DJ set and donating a month of food to One Love Community Fridges, which stocks public grocery sites in Brooklyn.
WPP’s digital experience consultancy in Dallas published its second annual Juneteenth Starter Kit, a guide for businesses that want to tackle racial injustice internally or externally.
Atlanta agency Dagger created a short film for The A Pledge calling on other agencies in the city to make diversity a priority. The initiative aims to increase representation at local shops to match the diversity of their home city by 2030.