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05/23/2022

J.C. Penney marks Juneteenth with initiatives, product line

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Juneteenth
J.C. Penney is celebrating the Juneteenth holiday.

The J.C. Penney Co. Inc. is launching a multipoint celebration of Juneteenth.

Juneteenth (June 19) is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the U.S. and became a federal holiday in 2021. J.C. Penney, which began officially observing Juneteenth in 2020, is honoring social activist Dr. Opal Lee and launching an official Juneteenth apparel line.

In honor of Lee, a critical advocate to get Juneteenth recognized as a federal holiday who is known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” J.C. Penney hosted a virtual event featuring Lee on May 17, called “Walking for Freedom: A Juneteenth Discussion with Dr. Opal Lee.” The broadcast streamed live on Facebook and YouTube and a replay can be viewed here.

In addition, on Saturday, June 18, a day before Juneteenth (Sunday, June 19), J.C. Penney will join Lee in Fort Worth, Texas for “Opal’s Walk for Freedom,” a 2.5-mile walk representing the 2.5 years it took Emancipation Proclamation enforcement to reach Texas.

Now a nationwide event, Opal’s Walk for Freedom will be organized by community organizations in select cities across the country. J.C. Penney will also sponsor a “virtual” Opal’s Walk with its associates in other locations who want to join in with a self-directed 2.5-mile walk of their own.

J.C. Penney will also mark the holiday with the launch of a new Juneteenth collection from its diversity-focused private label brand Hope and Wonder. The retailer will donate 100% of net profits from the Juneteenth collection to support Opal's Walk for Freedom, presented by Unity Unlimited.

As a permanent company-wide holiday, J.C. Penney stores are open on Juneteenth, but hourly customer-facing associates working that day will receive additional holiday pay. In 2021, the retailer marked Juneteenth across its corporate offices, supply chain facilities, and stores. The company provided its more than 50,000 associates with educational resources and encouraged them to attend Juneteenth celebrations, virtually or in-person, including that year’s Opal’s Walk event.

“We are so honored to celebrate Juneteenth with special events and a new Hope & Wonder collection that allows us to give back and help Opal Lee spread her message of freedom and unity,” said Val Harris, senior VP, design, brand management and trend at J.C. Penney. “These efforts are the result of creative collaboration across many parts of the organization and J.C. Penney is so pleased to come together to honor this moment.”

“J.C. Penney’s Juneteenth Hope & Wonder Collection and national sponsorship of Opal’s Walk for Freedom speaks volumes about their commitment to diversity and inclusion,” said Dione Sims, executive director of Unity Unlimited, Inc. the producers of the Walk and granddaughter of Dr. Lee. “Their generous donation will go a long way in supporting our mission to educate the country about the significance of Juneteenth as a national holiday that can bring people together and start the healing of America.”