You don’t want to miss this!
The Robert Randolph Foundation’s Juneteenth Unityfest is an inaugural celebration of Black culture that boasts a star-studded lineup.
Grammy nominated artist Robert Randolph first had the idea to create a Juneteenth festival during the pandemic. With all of the social unrest, he felt like Black people needed a reason to celebrate and with so much talk about our history, and all the things that people were learning as a result of the incessant online chatter around the legacy of racism in America, Randolph thought what better time than now.
“As the world was changing due to the unfortunate killing of George Floyd, with everyone tied to their phones, you had all sorts of different people trying to learn of our history…Juneteenth kind of gave Black folks a reason to want to celebrate and it felt like we all should get together on that date. As I was watching this happen, I said maybe there is a way here to create a big festival to bring all Black Americans together, especially since as Black people, we don’t have a holiday…I felt on this day we could help [set the tone] for how we’re going to celebrate this day going forward…to talk about the history,” Randolph told Because Of Them We Can.
June 19th, also known as Juneteenth, commemorates the day that the last of enslaved African-Americans were declared free. While it is such an important legacy in the history of African-Americans, it still has not been acknowledged on a national stage, through government or otherwise, officials still voting on whether or not it should even be considered a federal holiday. With the renewed interest in the holiday, Randolph is capitalizing on an opportunity to set precedent for what a Black Independence Day should look like.
The Juneteenth Unityfest, presented by The Robert Randolph Foundation, aims to “celebrate the breadth and depth of Black culture and Juneteenth as a uniquely American experience,” the organization said via statement. The event is the first of an annual celebration that will take place, this year’s event being live streamed. The Unityfest combines musical performances, inspiring remarks, films, comedy, storytelling and appearances by a number of influencers to honor the legacy of the holiday, including 94-year-old activist, Ms. Opal Lee, who has been campaigning to make Juneteenth a national holiday for years.
The celebration will be hosted by actress Amanda Seales and comedian JB Smoove, featuring musical performances from Earth, Wind & Fire, India Arie, Ledisi, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Bebe Winans, Aloe Blacc, and Mr. Randolph himself, among others. There will also be special guest appearances from a number of celebrities, including Phylicia Rashad, Billy Porter, Van Jones, Craig Robinson and Wayne Brady. Randolph’s Foundation has partnered with a number of community organizations and companies to bring the event together as well, including Heal America, EBONY, Empire Entertainment, The Rock & Roll Hall of fame, LiveXLive Media, the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, Benedict College, and the Muhammad Ali Center.
Randolph spoke to BOTWC about his goal, saying in addition to commemorating the holiday, it was also important that he provide a platform for grassroots organizers on this day.
“It was really about highlighting all of the grassroots community organizations that we all know exist, as Black people first,…those organizations never get highlighted and almost never [benefit] from all of the funds that are out there,” said Randolph.
The New Jersey native also hopes to educate and set an example for future generations to come.
“For today’s generation, we get to actually educate [them] like we haven’t been educated…All of our kids growing up today, they get a chance to be a part of this day [where] every bit of Black culture is highlighted…being a day to remember America’s past and to celebrate the progress that we’ve all made so we can just rededicate ourselves to the goal of being better.”
While this is the first event of its kind, it is certainly not the last. Randolph hopes to continue expanding the fest every year, eventually being able to fill up stadiums across the country, spreading his message of togetherness and hope.
“As we commemorate and come together on this day, through music and arts and performances, we just want to bring people together from all backgrounds… [to celebrate] the accomplishment of all Black culture…that will lead the path forward to hope and progress. That’s all we hope to accomplish every year.”
The Juneteenth Unityfest will stream live via the festival’s website on Saturday, June 19, 2021 at 5pm EST/2pm PST.
Photo Courtesy of The Robert Randolph Foundation