Christian Education

Milwaukee Times sells Juneteenth Strawberry Soda to share the story


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“A sweet sip of freedom.”

This is what the label of Juneteenth Strawberry Soda says. For the past five years, the weekly Milwaukee Times – which focuses on positive news from the black community – has sold the soda to its office in the summer months.

“It’s a historic drink,” said Lynda Jackson Conyers, editor of the Milwaukee Times. “We have the chance to share the story of Juneteenth and how Juneteenth was born selling the drink.”

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union Army soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with the news that all slaves were free – two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was proclaimed. Juneteenth is a cultural celebration focusing on the education and achievements of African Americans.

The great-great-great-grandfather of a late friend of Conyers was living in Galveston at the time. Her stories have been passed down from generation to generation, and Conyers said her friend shared them with her. One of those stories was the story of strawberry soda.

RELATED:A toast with a strawberry soda: what my southern grandparents taught me about the traditions of Juneteenth

RELATED:Milwaukee has long celebrated Juneteenth – here’s why and what makes it different from events in other cities

The importance of strawberry soda

“When the slaves were told they were free, they threw a party,” said Conyers, a former Milwaukee Public School teacher. “The way they celebrated was with everything that was red to symbolize the blood shed by the slaves.”

The celebration included watermelon, a barbecue, a red velvet cake and a strawberry drink, Conyers explained. Strawberry drink was previously reserved for slave owners, she said, and slaves were not allowed to have it.

“When they found out they were free slaves, then they decided it was their chance, it was their opportunity to celebrate,” she said. “And the way they celebrated was by drinking the strawberry drink.”

Where to find strawberry soda

The Milwaukee Times, located at 1936 N. King Drive, sells hundreds of bottles of soda each year. Conyers orders them and picks them up from a small beverage company outside of Chicago.

The newspaper typically offers the soda from April through fall, but Conyers hopes to be able to offer it year-round in the future. It can be purchased at the newspaper office from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“We are excited to share the story of Juneteenth by offering this drink to members of our community,” said Conyers. “When people come in and buy the drink, we share the story of Juneteenth and how it happened, and it’s part of our African American history.”

This year, the Milwaukee Times extended the reach of the soda by also distributing it to three local businesses:

  • Café Sherman Perk, 4924 West Roosevelt Drive
  • Big Daddy’s BBQ and Soul Food, 2730 North Humboldt Boulevard
  • Capitol Galst Food Mart, 4030 North Teutonia Avenue

Each bottle of soda costs $ 2.50. Profits will go to the Milwaukee Times’ Louvenia Johnson scholarship fund, said Conyers, which offers financial support to students in Wisconsin who plan to pursue a college education.

Sherman Perk, 4924 W. Roosevelt Drive, sells Juneteenth strawberry soda as a fundraiser for the Milwaukee Times newspaper.  Soda sells for $ 2.50 a bottle.

Learn more from the Milwaukee Times

In 1981, the late Nathan Conyers (Lynda’s husband), Louvenia Johnson, and Luther Golden founded The Christian Times, a bi-weekly newspaper focused on church work and religious events in the black community.

It quickly expanded to cover general community news. It was renamed The Milwaukee Times Weekly Newspaper, and The Christian Times became a supplement to it.

“We are focused on positive news and achievements,” said Lynda Jackson Conyers.

The newspaper, which publishes 10,000 copies per week, highlights academic, sporting and religious events, as well as role models, including business and community leaders, she said.

In 1985, the Milwaukee Times team launched the annual Black Excellence Awards, which honors “community leaders who have made outstanding contributions” and “unsung heroes,” Conyers said.

Over the years, the program has recognized more than 1,300 people of color, she noted. The Louvenia Johnson Scholarship Fund was launched during the third annual program.

James E. Causey of the Sentinel Journal and Jesse Garza contributed to this report.

Contact Hannah Kirby at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @HannahHopeKirby.



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