Observing Juneteenth

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Juneteenth: In this section of the Craft Brewers Guide to Cultural Observances, you’ll find a brief history of Juneteenth, a set of considerations to help you avoid common missteps, suggestions and recommendations for your Juneteenth commemoration or celebration, and a set of helpful links.

Juneteenth provides craft brewers with an excellent opportunity to foster authentic connections with African American communities and learn from civil rights champions and other organizations that celebrate Black history and culture. African American or Black individuals make up roughly 12% of the population of legal drinking age in the U.S. However, according to recent data from Nielsen Scarborough, only 4.5% of American craft beer consumers are Black. If the craft brewing industry were to reach Black consumers at the rate it reaches all consumers nationwide, it would add more than 1.5 million new enthusiasts. More importantly, craft beer businesses would benefit from deeper and more meaningful connections with their communities, exposure to ideas and perspectives that may have gone unheard, and access to a broader pool of employable talent.

As with any other cultural observance, it is important to engage Juneteenth with thoughtful intention, sensitivity, and respect. Without these considerations, craft brewers may find themselves relying upon stereotypical images or notions of Black identity, infringing on the intellectual property of Black creators (for example, by making a beer referencing the name or likeness of a musician or artist without permission), or failing to include members of the Black community in the planning and development of efforts to celebrate that very community.

Juneteenth is timed to make the most the seasonal surge in business at the beginning of summer by engaging new customers between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. This entry to the Craft Brewers Guide to Cultural Observances will guide you in your efforts to observe Juneteenth in a manner that is inclusive, respectful, and right for your brewery.

What is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is short for “June nineteenth.” The date marks the anniversary of General Order No. 3, proclaiming the freedom of enslaved people in Texas; two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth became a federal holiday on June 17, 2021.

Also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, or Emancipation Day, Juneteenth invites Americans to celebrate African American freedom and achievement while encouraging continuous self-development and respect for all cultures. Today, government agencies, schools, and organizations like Nike, Vox, NPR, and the Brewers Association formally recognize Juneteenth by cancelling classes, offering paid holidays, or designating a day of reflection. In the case of the Minnesota retailer Target, hourly workers receive time and a half if they work on Juneteenth, and salaried employees receive a paid holiday. Formal observances like these contribute to broader diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and help companies to recruit diverse talent and build relationships with broader constituencies.

Observing Juneteenth at your Brewery

Before you get started, check out our list of general considerations before you celebrate any cultural observance. This is not an all-inclusive list but it includes helpful conversation starters to consider before you begin planning an event, beer release, fundraiser or other means of marking a cultural observance. Specific actions will, and should, vary from brewery to brewery.

Here are some ideas to incorporate into your brewery or taproom that embrace the spirit of Juneteenth.

Hit the Right Tone

Remember, Juneteenth is a celebration of the end of legal slavery in the U.S. While you should remain respectful of the complex legacy of slavery and its impact, Juneteenth is not a somber occasion. Events should be full of life and togetherness in a warm and welcoming space.

“Juneteenth is a joyous holiday, not only for people of African descent…but also all Americans,” says Denise Ford-Sawadogo, co-owner of New Jersey’s Montclair Brewery. Montclair Brewery invites their local community to celebrate Juneteenth by hosting a celebration in their beer garden and releasing a collaboration beer, Jubilee Red Ale Brewed With Hibiscus, with New York City’s Harlem Hops.

Denise Ford-Sawadogo, co-owner of New Jersey’s Montclair Brewery, speaks about the significance of Juneteenth

Create Opportunities to Learn

In the case of all cultural observances, learning should precede action. Learning, however, need not be a chore! Use learning about Juneteenth as a way to generate curiosity among employees and customers, build relationships with nonprofit partners, explore the history of your local community, or engage in staff development.

  • Discuss how Juneteenth activities could further your company’s overall diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) goals and efforts. If you are unsure of how get started on integrating DEI into your organization, visit the Diversity and Inclusion for Small and Independent Craft Breweries playlist.
  • Reserve time during a monthly staff meeting or create a short survey to elicit ideas from staff on ways to acknowledge and celebrate Juneteenth. You can use our resource on having more inclusive and effective meetings to facilitate your conversation.
  • Invite a speaker to host a dialogue about successes and challenges in the local or regional African American or Black community and explore synergies. Your local Urban Chamber of Commerce, NAACP chapter, or institution of higher education may make productive partners.
  • If your organization has an employee resource group or affinity group for members of the Black community, invite them to use a reserved time or space to educate co-workers about Juneteenth.
  • Share this article via a staff newsletter, provide an overview in a weekly team email, or print this guide to post in common areas.

Engage Members of the Community through Partnerships

In her keynote address at the 2022 Craft Brewers Conference, president and co-owner of Russian River Brewing Company Natalie Cilurzo spoke of the importance of operating with a clearly defined purpose and how doing so has supported the success of the brewery and created deeper connections with the Santa Rosa, California community. “Our strong desire to support and give back to our communities, both internally and locally, the beer community and beyond, quickly became…the heart of the definition of our purpose.” Partnering with individuals and organizations on your Juneteenth observance efforts is an opportunity to make relationships with others that are aligned with your organization’s overall values.

  • Reach out to local Black-owned businesses or homebrew clubs to ask if you can support their Juneteenth activities and efforts.
  • Connect with your municipal offices, historical societies, schools and colleges, tourism boards, or economic development agencies to become a partner for annual Juneteenth events they may be organizing. Even if you do not formally become a partner, plan to attend. Better yet, volunteer!
  • Make meeting space available for Juneteenth events organized by organizations or individuals that are closely aligned with your organization’s purpose or values.
  • Donate to an African American-focused charity or organizations in the form of a cash gift, gift cards, or a beer donation. Include your team by inviting employees to recommend organizations they are involved with or charitable originations in their networks.
  • Designate the proceeds from a collaboration beer or a percentage of taproom sales on Juneteenth for donation to an organizations or initiative that supports and celebrates black history and culture.

Use Affirming Imagery and Communications

Many organizational leaders feel apprehensive about communicating about cultural traditions that are not their own. While good intentions and employee enthusiasm may motivate leaders to be vocal when cultural observances come around, lapses in appropriateness, incidences of cultural appropriation, or engaging in pandering can create far more harm than good.

  • Avoid utilizing imagery or written communications that rely upon stereotypes of African American or Black culture or infringing upon the intellectual property of Black creators, musicians, athletes, etc.
  • Invite members of the community to contribute creative content for labels, signage, and social media content related to Juneteenth. Compensate creators fairly for their work.
  • Utilize social media strategically! Accounts can be used to curate engaging content or amplify voices (with permission) from other accounts, or showcase partners, local business, or other African-American entrepreneurs in your town.

Stay Engaged and Committed

The perception of opportunism is the enemy of authenticity. That means, engaging with cultural heritage or identity-based observances is inherently a double-edged sword. That double-edged sword, however, can be dulled with one simple strategy—don’t wait for holidays and observances to engage with cultural traditions, histories, and communities. Cultivate opportunities to support the African American community throughout the year. Authenticity and consistency are key!

Other Resources from the Brewers Association

Find More Information about Juneteenth