“Where I grew up, Juneteenth was this days-long celebration with something new to go to every day, and so you became immersed in it,” says Williams, a senior copywriter working on Walgreens Photo. “For the longest time, I didn't realize Juneteenth was actually celebrated outside of the state of Texas. I still come to Juneteenth first as a Texan and native person to this state, and I see it as an observance that encompasses family and everything that creates a community.”
The history of Juneteenth began in Williams’s native Texas on June 19, 1865. It’s the date marking nearly two years after Abraham Lincoln read the Emancipation Proclamation, when the news finally reached the last slaves in Galveston, Texas, and they learned they were free.
As a mom of two young boys, Williams has now taken on the role that her elders have, teaching her sons about their heritage and the realities of today. A professional writer with decades of experience, she’d never written a greeting card before. But she knew she wanted to make something special for Juneteenth.
“My boys inspired me so much,” says Williams. “Because what was going on in our nation in the last few years, and in the larger Black community, was forcing families to have difficult conversations. And it also shined a light on the conversations that Black families have to have, and I wanted to be a part of that. The guided star card that references ancestors, that card is my conversation with my boys.”
Inspired to create original cards for Juneteenth, Williams sent Walgreens illustrator Dani Knight, who works in Chicago, a message about her idea, and the collaboration took off immediately.
“To this day, I have never met Dani in person, but we are so close now to where we can finish each other's creative sentences,” laughs Williams. “And by that, I mean, I would say something like, ‘Rejoice.’ And she would come back with her hand-lettered rendition of the word, and it looked like how I felt.”
Knight, for her part, was excited to work on an assignment unlike those she’s done for Walgreens in the past.
“This project was pretty different, because when we started doing our research, there just weren’t a lot of cards out there to reference. For other kinds of holidays—Christmas for example—we’re inundated with imagery. We know what a Christmas card looks like. We know what colors to expect. We even know what language to expect. But that’s what made this project unique. We got to dig in and be creative and start coming up with that messaging ourselves.”
Now available for purchase online, the cards are Williams’ gift to her family and the larger community. The cards can be personalized with custom messaging and printed the same day for pick-up or delivery. Rich in design and clear in message, they are as nuanced and varied as the heritage they honor.
“For me personally, the definition of Juneteenth has changed over the years,” says Williams. “Now it means perseverance, it means knowing your worth, it means fighting for your worth, and in its broadest sense, Juneteenth to me means family. Because we are celebrating the same thing at the same time wherever we are, like families do, because what happens to one of us impacts us all.
“We wanted something that I could give to my sons,” continues Williams. “Something I could give to my aunts, my uncles and my cousins. But then I also wanted something that my chosen multi-cultural, multi-ethnic family members would then feel comfortable giving to me.”
Discover how the meaning of the holiday has evolved for Williams and more on how Knight approached the artwork, in their own words, below.