For us, by us!
Meet the HBCU grad behind the “Juneteenth Joy” trademark, NBC News reports.
Mario Bowler Sr. is an assistant director at his alma mater, Lincoln University, and the owner behind the trademark “Juneteenth Joy.” When Juneteenth was declared a national holiday last year by President Biden, Bowler says he knew the name would eventually be exploited and he wanted to make sure he applied for a trademark. For years, he has been attending Black business conventions and entertaining the idea of creating a business around Black food and culture. The “Juneteenth Joy” trademark just made sense and he filed the trademark application last summer.
Last month, when social media users exploded over Walmart’s Juneteenth-themed ice cream, many also highlighted the insidiousness of Balchem, a white-owned New York-based company, attempting to capitalize off of Black culture. While the ice cream was released with a trademark symbol on it, according to trademark attorney Ticora Davis, companies can display a trademark symbol on their products even if the application hasn’t been fully processed. In Balchem’s case, their application was blocked by Bowler who had already filed his “Juneteenth Joy” application and after the backlash, Walmart ended up pulling the ice cream from their shelves with Balchem also abandoning their application attempt.
Bowler’s family-owned business sells a number of items that they plan to tie in with the culture including gourmet popcorn, candles, and mints. The company is also planning to give back to the community through various scholarships and university projects while highlighting the accomplishments of Black people. Bowler says he has been affirmed in the process, knowing that ultimately trademarking “Juneteenth Joy” was the right thing to do.
“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,” said Bowler.
He, his wife, and his son are all HBCU graduates, and they hope to continue positively impacting the culture while also serving as an inspiration for others. Bowler is grateful now that his trademark application is in its final stages and has plans to launch the company website soon. It concerns him about what could’ve happened had he not followed through when he did and a company like Balchem received the trademark for “Juneteenth.”
While there are numerous other filings with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office around the holiday, including “Juneteenth Everyday,” “Big Poppa Juneteenth,” and “Juneteenth Music Entertainment,” many of the businesses are Black-owned which Davis says is a plus.
“[Black culture is] often looked at by large corporations as cash cows. 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,” said Davis.
Bowler hopes that people can enjoy his family’s products while “acknowledging [the] ancestors in the proper light.”
“To me, it’s still a big step in the right direction and we still have a long way to go. But we’re hoping that with this brand, we’re not going to forget the history, but we’re trying to commemorate and celebrate the movement forward,” he said.
(l to r) Mario Bowler Sr., his wife Stephanie, and son Mario Jr. Photo Courtesy of Mario Bowler Sr./NBC News