Above all the backlash against Walmart’s release of its Juneteenth-themed ice cream, one Black man had already claimed his responsibility to preserve Black culture.
By Atiya Jordan
BLACK ENTERPRISE previously reported on the outcry across social media regarding a Juneteenth trademark symbol placed on the retail giant’s “celebration edition” ice cream label. Twitter users were angered by the audacity to capitalize on Black culture and the historical significance of the national holiday. Since then, Walmart issued a public apology and discontinued the controversial product.
Before Walmart’s attempt, Mario Bowler Sr., assistant director at Lincoln University, an HBCU in Pennsylvania, where Bowler is an alumnus, jumped at the opportunity to claim Juneteenth in the summer of 2021. According to NBC News, he filed a trademark application for “Juneteenth Joy” following Biden’s declaration of the holiday with hopes of protecting it from exploitation.
Over the years, Bowler had been attending Black business conventions while he planted roots for his family-owned business focusing on Black food and culture. Today, his establishment sells gourmet popcorn, candles, and mints with history and Black achievements in mind. With Juneteenth Joy, Bowler strives to offer scholarships and opportunities to prepare future Black leaders.
“We wanted to take a protective stance — establish the business, establish a brand where we could recycle dollars and also professionally develop some scholarships for students who want to attend HBCUs,” Bowler told NBC News. His efforts also honor his wife and son, who graduated from historically Black colleges.
The New York-based manufacturing company Balchem created the red velvet cheesecake flavored ice cream for Walmart’s Great Value brand. Despite the ice cream hitting the market, Balchem’s trademark application had been blocked by Bowler.
Ticora Davis, a trademark attorney and founder of The Creator’s Law Firm, explained via Instagram that companies can still use trademark symbols with the intention to file a trademark application or while in the process of filing one. The heavy criticism led Balchem to relinquish its trademark application on May 24 through an express abandonment application.
Davis told the news outlet that the Black community is “often looked at by large corporations as cash cows,” Davis told the news outlet. “If someone can exclusively have control over a particular product that obviously is going to be marketed primarily to the African-American community, that is going to be viewed as a huge financial incentive.”
Bowler is anticipating the completion of the final stages in the trademarking of Juneteenth Joy and the launch of his website.