W+K Explores the Nuances of Juneteenth as a National Holiday

Make it a day of reflection, not just another day off

A year ago, President Biden made Juneteenth a federal holiday so that all Americans (though actually, not all) could take the day to commemorate the end of slavery.

But to those in the Black community, that gesture, while significant, isn't uncomplicatedly positive. As a new film from Wieden+Kennedy's Black affinity group, noir, makes clear, putting Juneteenth on the same footing as New Year's Day or Memorial Day or the Fourth of July can feel underwhelming in a sense—as though the observance is being commoditized, or turned into "just another day off." (And why should folks who aren't Black have the day off anyway?)

The two-minute film, which you can see below, features two Black friends discussing Juneteenth and the federal holiday it's become—debating the merits, and frustrations, of this type of progress.


The film stars Stephan Junior as Caleb and Judeline Charles as Alexis and was directed by Ray Smiling, the longtime advertising creatove director. And it touches on elements of Juneteenth few brands would want to explore—indeed, the only CTA here is to join the conversation and reflection with #JuneteenthThoughts.

Its themes are echoed in this piece by Charles M. Blow, the New York Times columnist, who likewise admitted some "trepidation that the day would lose some of its cultural potency and succumb to commercialization" upon becoming a federal holiday. Yet Blow adds: "Having Juneteenth enshrined as a national holiday makes it more likely that all Americans are taught not only about the day itself but also about the legacy of enslavement, more likely to interrogate the very notion of freedom and examine the imperfections of the emancipation order."

Along with noir, the piece was also made in collaboration with Division7, Arts Academy, Company3 and Heard City.

W+K has been committed of late to creating compelling unbranded films exploring topics that have resonance to people of color in its own ranks. This films follows "The Myth" from last month, spearheaded by senior copywriter/creative director Titania Tran, which explored the stereotype of Asian Americans as the "model minority."


Film Credits

Wieden+Kennedy New York 
Chief Operating Officer: Neal Arthur
Chief Creative Officer: Karl Lieberman 
Creative Directors: Matt Mulvey, Blair Warren
Creative Lead/Writer: Tommy Woods
Creative Lead/Art Director: Jacobi Mehringer
Account Executive: Autumn Carson
Community Manager: Jade Smith
Senior Social Strategist: Anwar Warner
Senior Brand Strategist: Donovan Triplett
Brand Strategist: Aiden Million
Business Affairs: Ronald Brown
Business Affairs: Josh Christie
Producer: Zaynah Ahmed
Production Assistants: Kareem Adeniran, Cameron Carr
Project Manager: Ariana Jefferson
Content & Editorial Specialist: Eno Oduok
Social Strategy Resident: Ni'A Landon

Production Company: Division7 & Made by Limbo
Director: Ray Smiling
Director of Photography: Philey Sanneh
Managing Directors: Kamila Prokop & David Richards
Founders: Patrick Milling-Smith  & Brian Carmody 
COO: Andrew Colon 
Head of Production: Alex Hughes 
Bidding Producer: Gillian Altman 
Executive Producer: Chris Dodds
Executive Producer: Luigi Rossi
Head of Production: Alex Hughes
Producer: Francesco Raffo
Producer: Leon Derriey
1st AC: Karleah Del Moral
2nd AC: Britney Bautista
Gaffer: David Ospina
Key Grip: Jared Diaw
Production Designer: Megan Nishiyama
HMU: Brittany Ward
Sound Mixer: Travis Jones

Editorial Company: Arts Academy
Editor: Eric Alexander-Hughes
Assistant Editor: Jason Tawiah 
Executive Producer: Timory King
Producer: Chelsea Spensley

Mix & Sound Design 
Audio Post: Heard City
Managing Partner: Gloria Pitagorsky
Mixer: T Terressa Tate
Executive Producers: Jackie James & Sasha Awn
Senior Producer: Liana Rosenberg
Producer: Nick Duvarney
Assistant Producer: Dylan Stetson
Assistant Mixers: Ronnie Stapleton, Seth Brogdon, Virginia Wright, Zoltan Monori, Chenoa Tarin

Color & Finish
Finish: Company 3
Senior Colorist: Nick Metcalf
Senior Producer: Katie Andrews
Flame Artist: Cody Edwardson
Producer: Chris Lewis
Executive Producer: Connor Callaghan

Stephan Junior as "Caleb"
Judeline Charles as "Alexis"

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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