Juneteenth has been observed by African Americans nationwide for more than 150 years as a celebration of the day enslaved Black people were liberated in the United States. This year, as Black Lives Matter demonstrations continue across New York City, the holiday takes on special significance as a day of action, reflection, and education. New York officials are recognizing the weight of the anniversary by making Juneteenth an official state holiday and a city holiday, set to be observed by public schools next year. Although the festivals and cookouts of the past are on hold this year in light of the coronavirus, there are many virtual and socially distanced events happening across the city, from a digital day of dance to a cyclist-led Freedom Ride.
Concerts and performances
Concert from The Dream Unfinished and hosted by Brooklyn Public Library
Friday, June 19, from 4:00 to 4:30 p.m.
Hosted by the Brooklyn Public Library, a special concert from activist orchestra The Dream Unfinished will be streamed in celebration of Juneteenth. The event, available to watch on Facebook at @BPLPresents, also includes readings of Langston Hughes poems by composer Margaret Bonds, poetry by James Emanuel, and performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The library is also hosting storytime for children aged 5 and under with a reading of Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters on Friday at 11 a.m.
The Moth’s virtual mainstage: We Rise: Stories of Community, Resilience, and Irrepressible Joy
Thursday, June 25, 7:30 p.m.
While Juneteenth is a one-day celebration, the amplifying of Black voices does not need to be limited to just one day. Storytelling group The Moth is hosting a virtual show next week on June 25 with stories from poet R. Eric Thomas, Ray Christian, Hannah Drake, and Amber J. Phillips. The event costs $15 and will be streamed on Zoom. Buy tickets here.
SummerStage’s digital day of dance
Friday, June 19, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
An all-day dance event is happening on Friday in honor of the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth. Hosted by SummerStage, which has moved its free outdoor performances online because of the coronavirus, the event celebrates Black dancers and choreographers. Find the full line up, including details about a 7 p.m. panel discussion led by Hope Boykin of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, here.
Pianist Nnenna Ogwo and Sterling Strings: Juneteenth Celebration
Friday, June 19, at 7 p.m.
Pianist Nnenna Ogwo returns to Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater for a virtual performance in honor of the holiday. For the fifth year, Nnenna Ogwo and the Sterling Strings will perform music written and performed by Black musicians in celebration of Juneteenth. The streaming event is free, but donations can be made to the musician here.
Flyer courtesy of the Good Company Bike Club
Protests and vigils
First annual Juneteenth March on City Hall
Friday, June 19, at 2 p.m.
Protests over the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and countless other Black Americans, continue across neighborhoods in New York City and the country. A special Juneteenth march is taking place at City Hall in Manhattan on Friday, with demonstrators from all five boroughs demanding several police reforms, including mandating a camera on every officer and establishing a national database of police shootings. Get more details here.
“Black Souls Day” Remembrance event
Friday, June 19, 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.
At the Ocean and Flatbush Avenue entrance of Prospect Park, there will be a memorial event in honor of the”Black Souls” lost in the United States over the last 400 years. The socially distanced event will include a 30-minute moment of stillness. Attendees will be given hand sanitizer, a candle and matches, and a piece of paper to write a name or person to remember.
A Freedom Ride: #ARouteWithAPurpose
Friday, June 19, 1 p.m.
The Good Company Bike Club is presenting a Freedom Ride this Juneteenth, with stops at Black-owned businesses along the way. Cyclists, including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, will start at the Brooklyn Museum and ride together to Fort Greene Park, stopping at spots like Brooklyn Drip, Gold Room BK, Savvy Bistro and Bar, and Rustik Tavern for refreshments. RSVP and sign a waiver before rolling out here.
March for Justice at Seneca Village site in Central Park
Friday, June 19, 10 a.m.
A silent march is taking place on Friday, with protesters marching from the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building in Harlem to the site of Seneca Village, a historic Black community that was razed to make way for Central Park roughly two centuries ago. Following the march, there will be speakers and music at the historic site, located around 83rd Street on the West side of the park.
Courtesy of NYPL
Virtual panel discussions, workshops, & readings
Schomburg Center’s Juneteenth: Creating Legacy in Contested Places
Friday, June 19, from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is hosting an online event that will “examine the artful negotiations of formerly enslaved African Americans and celebrate the persistent pursuit of freedom.” Starting at 2 p.m., there will be a performance of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” from the Rootstock Republic and a discussion between Chef Therese Nelson and Dr. Andrea Roberts, founder of the Texas Freedom Colonies Project. The program also includes examining the holiday through food, with chef and author Carla Hall.
Juneteenth Celebration at Weeksville Heritage Center
Friday, June 19 to Saturday, June 21
The Weeksville Heritage Center, a museum in Brooklyn dedicated to preserving the history of one of the country’s largest free Black communities, is hosting events all weekend in celebration of Juneteenth, with a focus on Black foodways. On Friday, there will be a screening of “Miss Juneteenth,” a film described as a love letter to Black women.
On Saturday, the museum will go live on Instagram (@weeksvilleheritagecenter) to honor Lloyd Porter, the owner of the bakery Bred Stuy who passed earlier this year from the coronavirus, a herbs workshop by Amber the Alchemist, a discussion from Brittany Saunders of the nonprofit Citizens Commission on Human Rights, a discussion about food security during COVID-19, and a “restaurateur chat” with the owners of Lakou Cafe and Cheryl’s Global Soul.
On Sunday, there will be a food demo with Klancy Miller on Instagram Live starting at 2 p.m. and a screening of films for children, including “Hair Love” and “Kirikou and The Sorceress.” Get the full line-up and register for the events here.
Juneteenth 2020 with the New York Public Library
Friday, June 19, starting at 10 a.m.
In addition to the Schomburg Center’s event on Friday, the New York Public Library is hosting a number of virtual events in celebration of Juneteenth. The program includes special storytime readings including Mahogany L. Browne reading Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice, Ibi Zoboi reading excerpts from Black Enough, and Carole Boston Weatherford reading Schomburg: The Man Who Built A Library.
After releasing its Black Liberation Reading List earlier this month as a guide to antiracist literature and black writers, NYPL and the Schomburg Center have released a followup list tailored to young readers. The 65-title list includes books for children and teens that celebrate black history and culture.
“Juneteenth is also a reminder that the fight for freedom is ongoing, and that justice delayed is justice denied,” Kevin Young, director of the Schomburg Center, said in a press release. “This year especially, Juneteenth is a day to reflect and talk about urgent topics that are often painful and uncomfortable. Our great hope is that the Black Liberation Reading Lists we have released in the last week, including the list for young readers released today, will provide resources everyone needs in this complex time and necessary refreshment for body and soul.”