Juneteenth 2020 Performances Online and Demonstrations In the Streets


Juneteenth, an annual holiday celebrating the end of slavery, will be marked differently this, its 155th year, with Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the nation, including many outdoors in New York — such as to City Hall, in the Bronx , and a Juneteenth Jubilee in Harlem. But there are also a series of online performances.

Alvin Ailey
Available through June 25.
A new 35-minute ensemble dance choreographed by Donald Byrd that draws on the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, to honor Juneteenth.

Juneteenth: Creating Legacy in Contested Places
NYPL’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Launches at 2 p.m.
The program, which is largely a discussion about the food of Juneteenth celebrations and the Texas Freedom Colonies, will also feature music from Rootstock Republic, premiering a new arrangement of “Strange Fruit,” the song about lynching made famous by Billie Holiday

Polar Bears, Black Boys & Prairie Fringed Orchids
Juneteenth Theatre Justice Project
Launches at 7:00 p.m.
In honor of Juneteenth, more than 40 theaters across the country will simultaneously read Vincent Terrell Durham’s new play: A liberal white couple open the doors of their renovated Harlem brownstone to host a party for a Black Lives Matter activist, his gay white lover, a sistah named Shemeka and the mother of a slain 12 year-old black boy. A night of cocktails and conversation sparks emotional debates ranging from under-weight polar bears, Lana Turner, saving the planet, gentrification, racial identity and protecting the lives of Black boys. A benefit for the Fund for Black Theatre

Annual Juneteenth Celebration
Joe’s Pub
Launches at 7 p.m.
Pianist Nnenna Ogwo returns for the fifth year with Sterling Strings.

Freedom on Juneteenth
Karma House
Launches at 7 p.m.
An original theatrical production and artistic response to the recent murders of Black Americans through music, dance and spoken word from the oldest surviving black theater in the U.S., located in Cleveland.

Black Women and the Ballot
American Slavery Project
Launches 7:30 p.m.
In honor of Juneteenth, three new radio dramas tell the story of rebellions large and small that Black women mounted for the right to vote. The Parlour (written by Judy K. Tate & dir. by Dianne Kirksey-Floyd), Don’t / Dream (written by Saviana Stanescu & dir. by Judy K. Tate), and Pulling The Lever (written & dir. by Judy K. Tate) starring Phylicia Rashad. The show, which is in partnership with some dozen theaters, will be livestreamed with visuals.

Juneteenth Celebration
Carnegie Hall
Launches at 7:30
Through music and commentary—including performances by pianist Joseph Joubert and the Juneteenth Mass Choir, speeches by Bill Moyers and Bishop Michael Curry, and comments from Carnegie Hall’s Chairman Robert F. Smith and Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Wynton Marsalis—Rev. Dr. James A. Forbes Jr. leads this celebration

Watch the inaugural Antonyo Awards, a celebration of the Black Broadway and Off-Broadway community. Red carpet at 6 p.m., ceremony at 7, on Broadway Black’s YouTube channel. A sample of the presenters: Audra McDonald, Tituss Burgess, Alex Newell, Jordan E. Cooper, Ephraim Sykes, and LaChanze.

“Juneteenth, which commemorates June 19, 1865, when Gen. Gordon Granger entered Galveston, Texas, to lead the Union occupation force and delivered the news of the Emancipation Proclamation to enslaved people in the region. This holiday, which only became a nationwide celebration (among black Americans) in the 20th century, has grown in stature over the last decade as a result of key anniversaries (2011 to 2015 was the sesquicentennial of the Civil War), trends in public opinion (the growing racial liberalism of left-leaning whites), and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.”
— from Why Juneteenth Matters by

Black Lives Matter is distributing a petition to make Juneteenth a national holiday (and they’re not alone) New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order making it a holiday for state employees and promised to advance legislation to make it an official state holiday next year. Forty-seven states and Washington, D.C. currently treat it as a holiday or a special observance, and a small but growing number of corporations, including Nike, Twitter and Spotify, give its employees the day off.

Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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