Photo: Robert Randolph Foundation
Celebrate Juneteenth With These Star-Studded Musical Events From Questlove, Robert Randolph, Anthony Hamilton & More
June 19, 1865, or Juneteenth, is the official day when the last group of enslaved Black people fully gained their independence. General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, with his crew of Union soldiers to fully declare and enact what the Emancipation Proclamation was supposed to accomplish when it was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863.
It's been 156 years since that historic day, and America has made progress: Barack Obama was elected the first Black U.S. president in 2008, while Kamala Harris became the first-ever Black woman elected vice president in 2020.
Yet America still has work to do.
In recent years, there's been an influx of Black people killed by police, a surge of Black Lives Matter protests fighting for social justice, and waves of voter suppression laws continuing to pop up across various U.S. states. Not to mention, there's an ongoing battle to eliminate critical race theory in education.
Still, Juneteenth is both a holiday and an opportunity for the world to confront and reconcile with America's ugly past. Every year on June 19, Black communities nationwide continue to gather for food, fellowship and conversations about history while honoring the resilience, rejuvenation and joy our ancestors felt when they finally gained their freedom. Even Congress passed a bill this week declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday.
GRAMMY.com believes music and culture are inseparable forces with the power to tell the truth, heal old wounds, and bring people together to move the country forward. To celebrate Juneteenth 2021, here are a few virtual and in-person programs, activities and festivals to experience this weekend.
Juneteenth Music Festival
Since launching in 2012 in Denver's historic Five Points community, Juneteenth Music Festival has become one of the country's most celebrated festivals specifically to commemorate Juneteenth. It starts virtually with its signature event, the Dream BIG Awards, on Friday from 2 p.m. - 8 p.m. CT on Juneteenth Music Festival's Facebook page.
Later that evening, GRAMMY-winning R&B quartet 112 is taking center stage at the festival's R&B Summer Kick Off concert at Ruby Hill Park's Levitt Pavilion. Saturday will include its two-day street festival; a parade; panels on Afrofuturism, entertainment and sports at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance; Black Pride celebrations in Charles Cousins Plaza; a pop-up Juneteenth Museum; and a set at Jazz Alley headlined by GRAMMY winner DJ Jazzy Jeff.
I Dream a Dream That Dreams Back at Me, A Juneteenth Celebration/Screening of Questlove's Summer of Soul Documentary At Lincoln Center
As part of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts' Restart Stages program, a new commission by award-winning poet and artist Carl Hancock Rux, artist and costume designer Dianne Smith, and lyricist Lynn Nottage, "I Dream a Dream That Dreams Back at Me, A Juneteenth Celebration," will unravel in a mixed media, four-part installation on June 19 at 7 p.m. ET. Vernon Reid, Nona Hendryx, Marcelle Davies-Lashley, Kimberly Nichole, Helga Davis, Toshi Reagon and BIGLovely are providing the soundtrack for the evening that will reimagine the struggle Black people have had towards emancipation.
Lincoln Center is also screening GRAMMY-winning musician Questlove's feature debut Summer of Soul (...Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), his riveting Sundance Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award-winning concert film that unearths the Harlem Culture Festival featuring Sly & the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, The 5th Dimension, and the Staple Singers that took place the same summer as Woodstock, on June 19 at 9 p.m. ET. Tickets for both events can be found here.
Robert Randolph Foundation's Juneteenth Unityfest
Six-time GRAMMY-nominated pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph is bringing together a dynamic roster of his musical peers, community partners and grassroots organizations to pay homage to the depths of Juneteenth and Black culture. The bandleader's nonprofit, Robert Randolph Foundation, is livestreaming its inaugural Juneteenth Unityfest on Saturday, June 19, beginning at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT.
Hosted by comics Amanda Seales and JB Smoove, Juneteenth Unityfest will feature performances by India.Arie, Ledisi, Earth, Wind & Fire, Nile Rodgers and CHIC, Darius Rucker, Dave Matthews and Carter Beauford, Black Pumas, Aloe Blacc, Keb' Mo', BeBe Winans, Khruangbin, Phony Ppl, Michael Franti, Judith Hill, Jimmie Allen, Korean Soul, The Soul Rebels and Greg Phillinganes. Along with airing two landmark Jimi Hendrix performances from his appearance at Atlanta Pop Festival in 1970, Randolph will also be joined by "the Grandmother of Juneteenth" Ms. Opal Lee, Phylicia Rashad, Billy Porter, Wilson Cruz, Roger Guenveur Smith, LeVar Burton, Jon Hamm, Jesse Williams, Van Jones, Wayne Brady, Aisha Tyler, Adeshola Osakalumi, Baratunde Thurston, Craig Robinson, Zach Galifianakis, Deesha Dyer, Gail Devers, Jason Wright, Krystal Mackie and Zina Garrison. Click here to tune in.
State of Black Music Summit At The National Museum of African American Music
As the country's first and only museum that celebrates and acknowledges all styles of Black music, the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) in Nashville is hosting its inaugural State of Black Music Summit that will livestream from its Facebook and YouTube accounts on Friday, June 18, from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. CT. Each panel will feature esteemed artists, industry executives and media personalities to discuss the influence of Black music on social justice, sports, business, and fashion. NMAAM will also launch its State of Black Music podcast and share its fourth State of Black Music report. On Saturday, NMAAM will follow up with its dedication ceremony from 9 a.m. - 10 a.m. CT to confirm its place as both a cultural institution and authority of Black Music, immediately followed by a Juneteenth block party from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. CT that features live performances and DJs.
Sessions Live Featuring Anthony Hamilton
R&B singer, songwriter and producer Anthony Hamilton is bringing his soul-stirring vocals and down-home melodies virtually from his hometown, Charlotte, North Carolina, for an intimate Sessions Live concert to commemorate Juneteenth. With ticket prices between $9.99 - $129.99, fans are in for an hour-long experience that starts at 9 p.m ET/6 p.m PT. The GRAMMY winner behind soulful staples like "Comin' From Where I'm From" and "Charlene" is debuting his new single, "You Made a Fool of Me." At-home concertgoers can also opt to include Hamilton's encore performance and/or attend a group meet-and-greet following the show. Purchase tickets for Sessions Live here.
West African class at the Ailey Extension | Photo: Kyle Froman
Ailey Extension - Juneteenth Celebration: Free Virtual West African Dance Class
The Ailey Extension, under the historic Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York, is inviting dancers and those who love to dance to a free virtual West African Class beginning at noon ET on Saturday, June 19. Led by West African choreographer, musician and instructor Maguette Camara, the lively, high-octane 75-minute experience will share some of the history of West African culture along with the basics of body movement and rhythm accompanied by live drumming and percussion. For more information, follow the Ailey Extension here.