Juneteenth is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. The anniversary is recognized annually on June 19, and with that date fast approaching, many can expect to see it commercialized with advertisements. While some are purposeful and tastefully executed, others, such as this one, may leave you scratching your head.

Yesterday (May 25), an organization in Greenville, South Carolina apologized after facing backlash for posting Juneteenth banners featuring white people. A photo of the ad featuring the non-Black individuals promoting a “celebration of freedom” was quickly shared on social media. “Ain’t no way,” one person tweeted. Another wrote, “What in the Martha’s Vineyard advertisement is this?” Others were far more serious in their responses.

“They take no days off and work double time to erase our history or place themselves in our roles in history and the world,” an individual responded. Another added, “You want to celebrate the depth of Black culture on Juneteenth by putting white [people] as the face of it? How were you not aware [of] how problematic that is?” The organization heard the rollout of complaints loud and clear and immediately tried to save face by issuing a statement. “While concerns, confusion, and conversations were brought to the team’s attention, we wanted to ensure action was taken before we responded,” Juneteenth GVL began in a message posted to their social media accounts.

“Juneteenth GVL would like to offer an apology to the community for the presence of non-Black faces being represented on two flags representing Juneteenth,” the message said. “We take full responsibility for this misstep in this regard, and pledge to rectify the situation promptly and responsibly. Again, the flags in question will be removed as soon as possible,” the group’s director and founder Rueben Hays claimed. He concluded, “Moving forward, we are committed to ensuring that our events fully reflect the diversity, inclusivity, and historical significance of Juneteenth.”

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