Raleigh, North Carolina Over the weekend, Wal-Mart selling Juneteenth-themed ice cream went viral.
The packaging was decorated in African colors—not associated with Freedom Day like the traditional red, white, and blue—and had a message on the side that read, “Share and celebrate African American culture, liberation, and enduring hope.”
Walmart has since removed ice cream from its stores after receiving backlash online. Many saw this as a form of corporate cultural appropriation of the black community.
President Biden signed a law last June making Juneteenth a federal holiday, and it is legal to trademark a holiday name for goods and services the company offers.
“You can register a trademark for a holiday if it’s about T-shirts, pillowcases, or whatever you have,” said trademark attorney Deborah Mortimer. “It must be related to a specific good or service.”
Mortimer, a black woman, said putting on ice cream is like grabbing.
“Are they planning to give back to any causes, any African American issues?” Mortimer asked.
WRAL News reached out to Walmart with this and other questions and had not heard back at the time this article was published.
Since Juneteenth has become a federal holiday, multiple forms of “Juneteenth” have been filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
In the last examination, out of the 32 active types submitted from “Juneteenth”, only 7 were registered, which means that someone has the right to profit from goods under the brand classification, which in this case is 1B.
There is even a brand of wine under the name “Thanksgiving”.
But owning a registered trademark does not mean you own the holiday.
The Balchem Corporation attempted to trademark “Juneteenth” under the 1B rule for foods including sweets such as ice cream, however, attorney Adjckwc (pronounced A-Zha-Ko) O. Browne WRAL showed a document stating that the trademark was suspended. Waiting for someone else’s order under “Juneteenth Joy”.
The document reveals the argument that the company’s trademark was “unconvincing”.
Brown said she wants Juneteenth to be understood for truly celebrating freedom for every American, even those who benefit from it.
“We hope they will give it back to the communities that have been affected by what Juneteenth celebrates,” Brown said.
And that’s where Mario Bowler, a big, black man, comes in. It’s another person with a trademark application for “Juneteenth Joy”.
“We want to take back that part of our heritage and our legacy,” Bowler said.
Bowler lives in Pennsylvania, and introduced the “Juneteenth Joy” brand of some of his products the next day after President Biden recognized Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
The Bowler Company already sells popcorn in a few flavors and as candles. He says they try to enjoy jams, jellies and barbecue sauces, too.
Their website is slated to launch soon. By filing the trademark, Bowler said, he hopes to use the proceeds to protect the culture of the black community. He made it clear that everyone was a customer in his eyes, but he wanted to serve other members of the black community. Therefore, he involved his wife Stephanie and son Mario Jr.
“We are all HBCU graduates,” Bowler said. “Therefore, we want to create scholarships for students who want to attend HBCU.”
He said he understands that college is not the way for everyone, so Juneteenth Joy also aims to work with organizations to help find jobs in his community.
“We have a lot of revenue and access in our community, but it’s constantly running out,” Bowler said. “We hope a brand like Juneteenth Joy represents a number of different things, and we want to recycle those dollars into the community and do some really good things.”
The company has been in its infancy for about a year, but Juneteenth Joy’s plan is to grow and expand and set an example for other black Americans who want to help their communities help themselves.
“As black consumers, we need to watch our culture and care about what’s going on there,” Bowler said.
Deborah Mortimer said Buller has reached the point where he has to prove to the US Patent and Trademark Office that he sells products, which he says he does.
Adjckwc Browne said Bowler can license different types of “Juneteenth” marketed products under his brand label once he’s registered. If that happens, Bowler plans to reinvest in the Black community.
Juneteenth, or June 19, is the oldest national observance of the abolition of slavery in the United States.
The day is intended to commemorate the end of slavery in Texas, who were not freed until two years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
Traditionally, festivities consisted of music, prayer, and church services. As blacks moved from Texas to other areas across the United States, the tradition spread across the country.
In 2021, Governor Cooper and Mayor Mary Ann Baldwin declared June 19 the eleventh day in North Carolina and in the city of Raleigh.
Slavery did not end on Juneteenth. In some cases, slave owners withheld information about the freedom of black Americans, and others refused to release their slaves until they were forced to.
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