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Companies try to capitalize on Juneteenth holiday

Yahoo News reporter Marquise Francis explains how major companies like Walmart and Dollar Tree are facing backlash for trying to market Juneteenth-themed products.

Video transcript

DAVE BRIGGS: On Sunday, June 19, the nation will commemorate the ending of slavery, known as Juneteenth. Just like the countless Memorial Day sales hitting your inbox, marketers have actually attempted to seize on this opportunity to varying levels of success and some spectacular failure. Yahoo's Marquise Francis here with that side of the story. Nice to see you, my friend.

MARQUISE FRANCIS: Yeah, nice to see you as well. And as you mentioned, marketers are definitely trying to take advantage and, in a lot of ways, commercialize Juneteenth. We've seen what they did with Memorial Day and Pride Month, two separate incidents that came out of something dire. In Memorial Day, if you look back at history, Black women were putting flowers on the fallen Black soldiers.

And we see today, it's now turned into a day in which it's for all soldiers in all wars. And even Pride Month coming out of Stonewall and a lot of devastation that the LGBT community experienced fighting for equality. And now it's seen as a day to paint buildings with rainbows, things like that. And so, you're kind of losing the essence.

And so, now Walmart this Tuesday actually just responded and said they're going to take away an ice cream that they actually put out celebrating Juneteenth. And it was really particularly interesting because it was very eerily similar to a Black-owned ice cream from a Cincinnati-based company called Creamalicious, which has the same red velvet and [INAUDIBLE] cheesecake flavor. And so it was really suspicious on their part. And a lot of Twitter users were coming out saying, hey, why are you celebrating Juneteenth in this way? Would you do the same for the Holocaust? Would you celebrate in the same way?

And so, definitely some strong reactions there. And Walmart wasn't the only culprit. Also, you saw Dollar Tree, they came out with their own line of party supplies. And they had the pan-African colors of black, red, and green, which actually has nothing to do with Juneteenth at all, which colors are white and blue. And so, a lot of folks that I spoke to, experts are saying, look, they're doing this not necessarily for a feel good, but they believe it's profitable. But we're also seeing that there's a disconnect with the consumer and the corporations. And so, it's definitely just rubbing a lot of people the wrong way.

SEANA SMITH: And Marquise, you look at some of these things, and you-- when I was reading it, you're like, this can't actually be happening. This can't be true. But in fact, it is. You mentioned the fact that they were receiving some backlash from consumers. What are we seeing people say on social media? How are people feeling about this?

MARQUISE FRANCIS: People are upset. People are upset because they feel as though they're profiting off of someone's suffrage. And I think whenever you do that, you're definitely going to lose a lot of fans. I think because of the backlash, that's why Walmart put out the statement on Tuesday, saying they were going to remove it.

But it makes you question, who made that decision in the first place? How did it get here? And so, a lot of people are looking forward to making sure they can kind of protect what is such an amazing day. As you mentioned, it's celebrating the end of slavery for a lot of people. And it's been celebrating for 150 years. And so, a lot of people are saying, we were able to celebrate it without this. We don't need this moving forward.

RACHELLE AKUFFO: Rachelle here. In terms of how corporations can really learn from this so that they don't keep repeating the same mistakes about events that are so serious, what should the takeaway really be from this?

MARQUISE FRANCIS: The takeaway should be, it's more about education. I actually spoke to one professor out of Duke University, William Dougherty, and he said, imagine how different the landscape would look if Juneteenth had been designated as a federal holiday after reparations have been paid. And I know there's a lot of conversation about whether reparations should be paid and how, but when it comes to, as I mentioned earlier, just that suffering, oftentimes, the essence of the holiday is lost when you commercialize and commodify a holiday such as this.

DAVE BRIGGS: Indeed. Marquise Francis, come back and hang out in studio. Good to see you.

MARQUISE FRANCIS: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

DAVE BRIGGS: Thank you.

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