For the third year in a row, Major League Soccer and its clubs have teamed up with Black artists to commemorate Juneteenth and raise money for charities that impact Black communities.
This year, MLS and Black Players for Change collaborated with world-renowned photographer and founder of Charcoal Pitch FC Mel D. Cole as the creative lead for the Juneteenth campaign. He in turn brought artist Gianni Lee on board, who designed a special collectible jersey for each MLS team with the theme: “The Seeds We Plant. The Flowers We Share.”
“Juneteenth is a holiday that gives us a chance to reflect on our history, and appreciate the progress we have made,” said Earl Edwards Jr., president of Black Players For Change and a goalkeeper for the New England Revolution. “Black Players for Change was established to generate change within MLS, and it’s local communities.
“Since our inception, we have been working closely with MLS to accomplish our goals, and the Juneteenth jersey is another example of the incredible work we have been able to do together. With the addition of Mel D. Cole, and Gianni Lee, to this year’s collaboration, we were able to take our Juneteenth celebrations to new heights and I look forward to fans seeing the final jersey.”
The collectible jerseys will be signed by MLS players and auctioned off, with the proceeds going toward organizations that impact the Black community in each team’s local market.
Each collectible jersey takes a club’s base jersey design and adds a special design on the back. The design depicts hands holding flowers around a “19” numeral. The designs come in several different colorways to complement each team’s jersey.
“These flowers represent a merging of technology and the environment, symbolizing a harmonious future where African culture continues to thrive and spread throughout the world like planted seeds.
“The African-inspired flowers draw inspiration from the African lily, sugarbushes and the king protea, showcasing how African culture has been ‘planted’ all over the world and continues to grow and flourish in different corners of the globe.”
— Description on BlackPlayersforChange.org
The jerseys also feature a special Juneteenth patch designed by Lee on the right sleeve.
Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 when Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, “to inform enslaved African-Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended,” the New York Times wrote in 2020. “General Granger’s announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued more than two and a half years earlier on Jan. 1, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln.”