Major League Soccer (MLS) has announced its annual Juneteenth initiative for 2023, titled “The Seeds We Plant. The Flowers We Share.” Inspired by the artwork of renowned Black artist Gianni Lee, the initiative aims to commemorate Juneteenth and highlight the significant contributions of Black Americans.
The Juneteenth programs are a collaborative effort between MLS, clubs, and Black Players for Change (BPC), an independent organization comprising Black MLS players, coaches, and staff dedicated to promoting racial equality in soccer and society.
MLS and BPC partnered with acclaimed photographer and founder of Charcoal Pitch F.C., Mel D. Cole, to bring the initiative to life. Cole, serving as the creative lead for the Juneteenth campaign, enlisted the talents of Gianni Lee to design the collectible jerseys for 2023, centered around the theme of “The Seeds We Plant. The Flowers We Share.”
A total of 29 unique jerseys representing each MLS club will be autographed by players and auctioned off. The funds raised from the auctions will be donated to organizations positively impacting the Black community in each club’s local market. A commemorative patch has also been created to complement the collectible jerseys, symbolizing unity and solidarity.
Fans eager to support the cause will have the opportunity to bid on the collectible jerseys at MLSauctions.com. Moreover, patches and numbers can be purchased through the Black Players For Change website, allowing fans to further engage with and contribute to the initiative.
“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, Black Players For Change. “Black Players for Change was established to generate change within the MLS, and it’s local communities. Since our inception, we have been working closely with MLS toaccomplish 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.”
“When I was asked to partner up my agency Charcoal Pitch F.C with MLS for their 2023 Juneteenth campaign it was a no brainer for me,” said Mel D. Cole. “The values of Juneteenth and my agency go hand in hand; without being free there is no me! My agency tried hard to ensure that Black folks were truly represented throughout the entire process of this campaign; from getting super talented artist Gianni Lee on board toensuring that we hired people to work behind the scenes who not only are the best at their respected jobs but understood what Juneteenth meant to them and the world.”
“Storytelling is undeniably one of the most influential modes of communication. Just like seeds, stories have the ability to propagate and disseminate information in the absence of modern technology,” said Gianni Lee. “Collaborating with MLS I was solely dedicated to exploring that concept through a Soccer jersey. By incorporating my “blue hand” motif, I aimed to narrate the tale of African cultural unity in the diaspora and illustrate how it continues to flourish, akin to a plant, within the fabric of American society each passing day. “
Through “The Seeds We Plant. The Flowers We Share” initiative, MLS continues its commitment to raising awareness about Juneteenth and fostering positive change within the Black community, both on and off the soccer field.