South Carolina locals and activists were appalled at the image of a smiling White couple on a banner promoting an upcoming Juneteenth event.
Greenville citizens noticed last week that new banners were being hung across Main Street in honor of a three-day event celebration hosted by the nonprofit organization Juneteenth GVL Inc. The banners quickly spread across social media after people noticed one that featured only a White couple with no Black people.
Greenville’s Fighting Injustice Together activist Bruce Wilson publicly declared his disappointment with the banner to local news, calling it a misrepresentation of the holiday.
“I was appalled. I was saddened, I was angry,” Wilson said.
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Wilson staged events for Juneteenth events in Greenville since 2020. He stated that he was informed one month prior that his organization would not be able to use the Peace Center to plan an event in favor of another group.
Despite remarking that “White America” can celebrate Juneteenth, he called on Greenville locals to boycott the event.
“I’m the first to say that White America can celebrate Juneteenth, I just don’t think White America should be the face of Juneteenth. And I think that’s where the disconnect is. One, I’m asking this event be boycotted if they do not feel the need to remove this banner. Secondly, I’m asking everyone to call the city manager and voice your concerns about this particular banner,” Wilson said.
Rueben Hays, the CEO of Juneteenth GVL Inc., remarked that the intention of the banner was to promote unity for the event and that there were nine other designs which included Black, Asian and Hispanic residents. The idea, he also said, came from his all-Black board with no pressure from the city to diversify the promotion.
After the backlash, however, Juneteenth GVL Inc. later wrote an apology with plans to remove the flags.
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“We would like to offer an apology to the community for the presence of non-black faces being represented on two flags representing Juneteenth. We acknowledge this mistake having been made and will correct the error quickly. This error was an attempt at uniting all of Greenville and thereby a slight oversight on one individual’s part that prevented us from fully embracing the rich potential and celebrating the depth of the black culture through the message and meaning of Juneteenth, and for that we apologize to you the entire community,” the post read.
It continued, “The flags in question will be removed as soon as possible.”
In response to the backlash, city officials remarked that they do not approve of the designs of banners for private events like the Juneteenth celebration.
Juneteenth marks the day that Black slaves were freed after the Civil War following the Emancipation Proclamation. It was originally a holiday in Texas back in 1980 with other states following suit over the past few decades. President Biden officially signed a bill in June 2021 making Juneteenth a national holiday.
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