Event planner Cynthia Daniels’ Memphis, Tennessee-based business, like so many around the country, came to a screeching halt when the coronavirus pandemic hit. With no live events happening, she assumed her work would be on hold through the remainder of the year.
That is, until an idea struck. In May, when it became clear that she wouldn’t be able to visit her family in Atlanta for Mother’s Day, Daniels sent a care package with goods from some of her favorite Black-owned businesses ― coffees, teas, spa products. She also decided to share her favorite items on social media.
“I figured there had to be people in the same predicament who couldn’t go home,” Daniels told HuffPost. “So I thought here are some great products from businesses I love and have patronized over the years. The post went viral, and I realized a lot of people had never heard of a lot of these brands, even in my own town.”
Daniels got to work thinking of ways to support Black businesses. As an event planner, she wanted to center her efforts around something of significance.
Thus, the Juneteenth Shop Black virtual event was born. Shoppers are encouraged to RSVP for the online market, which will feature products for men, women, children and the home, all made by Black-owned businesses. It’s set to run from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Central Time on June 19.
Daniels hopes the one-day shopping hub will serve as an introduction to these businesses and lead to long-lasting brand awareness and customers. “This is not a fad,” she said. “This is a lifestyle.”
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the day on which the Union Army told enslaved Black people in Texas that they were free. (The Emancipation Proclamation had actually gone into effect more than two years earlier and by June 1865, the Civil War was over.) As the U.S. reckons with its history and confronts the white supremacy and racial injustice that has existed since its inception, people are pushing to make June 19 an official state and national holiday.
Daniels originally planned to showcase businesses that she already knew from having met their owners or shopped them at festivals and expos over the years. But she realized that “Black businesses are really at a disadvantage right now. A lot do not have brick-and-mortar storefronts, so really depend on those trade shows and festivals” ― which aren’t happening these days.
And when she posted a callout on social media, Daniels heard from more than 200 businesses. “I knew this was bigger than me and could have a national impact,” she said.
From the 200 applicants, Daniels selected about 100, spanning a wide range of goods. Among the items she’s most excited about are the children’s book “Nola the Nurse,” written by New Orleans-based nurse practitioner Scharmaine Lawson-Baker; hand-crafted jewelry from The Cayged Collection; and organic men’s grooming products from Sons of Hollis.
“Juneteenth Shop Black is a way to make impact with your dollars for businesses, many of which might not make it out of the pandemic,” said Daniels.