In spite of all this calamity going on, June is an exciting month for Black people and Black history. Not only is it Immigrant Heritage Month, Caribbean Heritage Month, and Pride Month, it is also Black Music Month! And today, of course, is a very important holiday in African American history:
Juneteenth (June+19th) marks the day that federal troops arrived in Texas, the last state to formally accept the emancipation, and announced that slavery was abolished. Yes, on June 19th, 1865 – TWO whole years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued – there were states that were still actively subjugating Black people into slavery. White slaveholders, clutching to their drunken power and infatuation with forced servitude, continued to practice their vile acts by keeping their slaves in the dark.
The news about their freedom spread slowly through word of mouth and was often met with resistance from those seeking to maintain the status quo. Even after Juneteenth, the fight to free every slave in this country continued and the thought of this truly makes my blood boil. The fact that there were Black women, men, children, and families who were unaware that they should no longer be in that condition – forced to toil for other people’s benefit – truly breaks my heart and angers my spirit. As James Baldwin famously wrote, “To be Black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage.”
With the recent uprisings ignited by the senseless murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Dominique Fells and countless others, the rage that we have felt continues to build. And many of us have understandably grown weary of having to explain why our Black lives matter and why police brutality, systemic racism, and injustice must come to an end. We are tired of this burden that white supremacy and oppression has placed on us. Sometimes, it feels like things haven’t changed since Jim Crow.
However, Juneteteenth has traditionally served as an opportunity for African Americans to collectively reflect on their history and to celebrate the progress that’s been made. It has also been a time for Black people to gather, connect with family and friends, and build community by throwing cookouts and honoring the beauty of blackness through food, dance, and of course, music.
Music has always been an important part of our culture and fight for liberation. As a creative outlet, it’s given a voice to the voiceless. A medium to share our woes, strength, pleasures, and sensitivities. It’s ignited passion, encouraged resistance, and sparked movements. In celebration of Juneteenth, Black Music Month, and the culmination of recent events, I’ve curated two playlists to (re)connect you to classic tracks, hidden gems, and the words of poets, activists, and intellects who contribute to conversations we’ve had and must continue to have on Black liberation.
These playlists were made with the intention of sharing the sounds of freedom that Black people have captured with their words, rifts, and melodies. Because the Black liberation movement is and needs to be global, the music selected attempts to extend past borders.
Obviously, these playlists are not definitive nor conclusive. There could always be more music added, making these playlists endless (because music is amazing in that way and we’re just that talented!), but I thought this was a good place to start. Please take a listen and let these sounds of blackness take you on a trip! I hope these words and melodies speak to your soul and spirit. I hope they ignite the flame inside of you with the fire of our ancestors. I hope that within them you can find some peace. But I also hope that you continue to resist.
Let me know how you enjoy these playlists and if there is any song that you feel is necessary to add, feel free to let your girl know in the comments below!
Happy Juneteenth and happy listening!
More on Juneteenth: https://youtu.be/iu6ntwHws5g