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Liberation: A Festival of Arts & Culture Honoring Juneteenth

As more institutions begin recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday, it is important to uplift and name the Black joy, resistance, and expression that have always been at the core of this jubilant celebration. From June 7 to 19, SCG invites members and the community to a two-week journey highlighting ten Los Angeles-based Black musicians, cultural workers, and dancers. 

Register now to receive daily videos showcasing artists and their stories accompanied by guided questions for self-reflection and meditation. Join us to pause, re-connect, and honor this sacred day.

Registration
When: 
Monday, June 7, 2021 to Saturday, June 19, 2021
No cost to participate
Anyone
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Lineup

Week 1

Day One | Monday, June 7th 2021
Qur'an Shaheed
Pianist, Vocalist and Composer

 

Day Two | Tuesday, June 8th 2021
Samad Raheem Guerra
Dance Artist, Choreographer and Writer

 

Day Three | Wednesday, June 9th 2021
Rachel Hernandez
Dance Artist and Choreographer

 

Day Four | Thursday, June 10th 2021
Jamael Dean
Pianist and Producer

 

Day Five | Friday, June 11th 2021
Kibrom Birhane
Pianist and Composer

 

Week 2

Day Six | Monday, June 14th 2021
Onyi
Pianist, Vocalist and Composer

 

Day Seven | Tuesday, June 15th 2021
William Alexander
Mmulti-intrumentalist and Composer

 

Day Eight | Wednesday, June 16th 2021
Nailah Hunter
Harpist, Vocalist and Composer

 

Day Nine | Thursday, June 17th 2021
Josh Johnson
Saxophonist, Multi-instrumentalist and Composer

 

Day Ten | Friday, June 18th 2021
Kara Jenelle
Dance Artist, Choreographer and Scholar

 

Questions

If you have any additional questions regarding the festival or about your registration please contact Erica Rey at [email protected].

 

Accommodations for People with Disabilities

All videos will have captions and ASL interpretation and all images will display alternative text.

If you have a disability and require accommodation in order to fully participate in this activity, please contact Erica Rey at [email protected].

Funding Issue Area & Geographic Regions

Kibrom Birhane

Pianist and Composer

Jamael Dean

Pianist and Producer

Samad Raheem Guerra

Dance Artist, Choreographer and Writer

Rachel Hernandez

Dance Artist and Choreographer

Nailah Hunter

Harpist, Vocalist and Composer

Kara Jennelle

Dance Artist, Choreographer and Scholar

Josh Johnson

Saxophonist, Multi-instrumentalist and Composer

William Logan

Multi-intrumentalist and Composer

Felicia “ONYI" Richards

Vocalist, Composer and Healer

Qur'an Shaheed

Pianist, Vocalist and Composer

Commissioned Illustrations

By: Devon Blow

  • Black Joy Matters
  • Celebrate Black Joy
  • Celebrate Juneteenth
  • Black Joy is Love
  • Black Joy is Liberation
Black Joy Matters Celebrate Black Joy Celebrate Juneteenth Black Joy is Love Black Joy is Liberation

Illustration Artist and Designer Devon Blow is the creator behind the Los Angeles-based brand What's Good Homegirl?! Using social themes and bright colors, she creates pop-art style illustrations and purposeful product designs.

Her primary focus is to inspire and empower marginalized, neglected, and disenfranchised communities; and celebrate cultural expression in all forms.

Radical Black Joy is the Revolution

By Erica Rey & Sequoia Thompson

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare. — Audre Lorde

Black people have historically reckoned with disparaging narratives centered on dehumanization and trauma in our culture and our stories. Today, non-Black people have a duty to bear witness to the full breadth, richness, and beauty of Blackness.

Non-Black people have an opportunity to share their platforms and allow Black communities to speak to their lived experiences. We must lean into the revolutionary impact of elevating Black stories that explore the complexity of their experiences; Black people can hold and express a range of feelings from joy, love, grief, fear, excitement to hope. 

We urge non-Black people to help create space in our cultural landscape for new stories that combat legacies of anti-Blackness. Today, we ask everyone to uplift and embrace the power of Black Joy.

Radical Black Joy is revolutionary by design.

It challenges the cruel narratives that white supremacy has globally propagated against Black Bodies. It directly denounces the lie that our worth is in proximity to or defined by anything outside of ourselves. Radical Black Joy is an emotional celebration that uplifts the value in “both-and”:
 
It is creating happiness amidst dystopia AND… reframing the fetishization of Black strength and resilience by honoring the inherent beauty in Black existence.
 
It is being told we are not valuable AND… still valuing ourselves.
 
It is seeing our culture, our bodies, and our brilliance being positioned in America’s historical narrative to be feared, avoided, fetishized, displaced, appropriated, shunned, AND... knowing that Black Culture gave birth to traditions of art, community, love, and celebration.
 
It is seeing how other people of color have been told to distance themselves from Blackness to gain value in society AND… our culture valuing the inherent beauty in difference.
 
It is boldly naming, then denouncing, the plague of systemic anti-Black racism AND… living, healing, and loving past that insidious fallacy.
 
It is knowing we are portrayed in a light that is NOT indicative of our cultural love for humanity AND… loving the magnificence we see in the mirror and the beauty that exists in others.  
 
Radical Black Joy means coming together to uplift what has been historically shunned. To return to the collective happiness that white supremacy insidiously corrupted to separate us from each other and ourselves.

Radical Black Joy... is the revolution.

An Invitation to Dismantle Anti-Blackness

If Black women [and Black femmes] were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression. — Michele Wallace

There are many ways for non-Black people and institutions to elevate and center Black voices and truth. We urge you to imagine how you can move past rhetorical allyship toward tangible transformation for Black communities. The philanthropic sector can commit to eliminating models of giving that force Black people to prove their worth or compete against their community members for limited resources. Grantmakers can fund programs that celebrate joy, culture, and legacy, not just trauma. Funders can also create space at the decision-making tables and share their platform with radical Black voices in their panels, programs, and keynote speeches. Most importantly, we can get out of the way and allow Black people the space to create without watering down or censoring their messages. Black people must be allowed to express their truth, even if it creates discomfort for non-Black bodies. 

Artist

Qur'an Shaheed

Day one: June 7, 2021

As a pianist, poet, singer and songwriter, Qur'an has been exploring improvisation. In this piece, she's communicating her feelings and thoughts through her fingers while focusing on intention. With every note, she wanted there to be no control, detaching from her present consciousness and trying to reach something outside of the daily negative thoughts.

Reflection Questions

Qur'an’s piece invites us to be fully present so that we may rest in that spaciousness. What are the ways you practice radical rest? What allows you to feel and access the quality of presence that opens the door to radical rest?

Artist Q&A

Which activists and changemakers inform and inspire your practice? 

My parents and my family. They are all change makers and they inspire me to continually strive to be my best self in many ways. My mother taught me the importance of unity between the mind, body, and spirit. My father taught me how to honor and love my people. And my grandmother taught me how to perfect the gift I was bless with. All has inspired my practice.

What are the ways you practice radical rest? 

I like to be silent. Tend to my plants, animals, and make music. 

How do you and your community honor and uplift the legacy of Juneteenth? 

By continuing to grow, learn, and develop compassion.
 

Artist

Qur'an Shaheed
Pianist, Vocalist and Composer

Qur'an Shaheed (b. 1992, Pasadena, CA) is a pianist, poet, singer and songwriter based in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, CA. She has been playing piano since the age of four, trained extensively in classical music through the expertise of her mother Sharon Shaheed and grandmother Monique Simpson. Since 2012 she has been developing her practice as a songwriter alongside her solo piano and ensemble work. She released the album Process, with producer Jesse Justice and Preference Records, in 2020 and regularly performs in and around Los Angeles.

Her sound is innovative, highly personal and experimental, incorporating elements of improvisation as well as neo-classical and neo-soul techniques. Shaheed often collaborates with others and has worked with Koreatown Oddity, filmmaker Vashni Korin and the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra (of which her father Nolan Shaheed is also a member). She is the keyboardist for Jimetta Rose’s gospel choir The Voices of Creation. In 2020 she was interviewed by KCRW for their Private Playlist series and featured in a special mixtape project by waltz for Gucci Shibuya Parco in Tokyo. Shaheed is also engaged in composing for moving image and film scoring, particularly drawn to projects that reflect on society, history and unifying acts.

Samad Raheem Guerra

Day Two: June 8, 2021

Samad Raheem Guerra's performance is a homage to his birth mother, Evette Raheem, whom he spent the greater half of his adult life trying to find. Although Samad does not recall the sound of her voice, the warmth of her skin, or the kindness of her heart, he knows that she loved him deeply.

Reflection Questions

Samad's piece reminds us that we can always communicate with our beloveds in the ancestral realm. What are some ways you and your ancestors communicate with each other? We invite you to dedicate some time today to meditate, write a letter, cook a meal, and engage in some creative practice to connect to one of your divine ancestors. 

Artist Q&A

How do you embody liberation in your practice and creative works?

I’ve found liberation through the physical act of releasing and letting go of tension in my body. As a dancer, one of my goals is to experience freedom through movement. And this freedom is always achieved by letting go and allowing myself to enter a trance-like state. However, not all of my creative work is dance-based. Writing has also been a medium through which I’ve found liberation. The poem that I wrote helped me arrive at a place of love and forgiveness toward my birth mother who didn’t have the capacity to raise me after birth. In my opinion, liberation is also tied to love and forgiveness.

What organizers, activists and/r change-makers currently influence your work? What books/texts inform your work?

I’m very influenced by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Marjani Forté-Saunders, Dana E. Fitchett, Favianna Rodriguez, Soul Nubian, d. Sabela grimes, and the work of the Embodiment Project. They are mainly BIPOC change-makers, artist-activists, and storytellers who bring all sorts of mediums to stage, including text, movement, theater, sound, etc. Books like Pleasure Activism by adrienne marie wrown, Genesis (Memory of Fire Trilogy) by Eduardo Galeano, and Anger by Thich Nhat Hanh have all informed my creative work over the years.

How do you and your community honor and uplift the legacy of Juneteenth?

In the past, I’ve performed at Juneteenth celebrations, helped host panel discussions on the topic of liberation, and organized events at residential centers for transitional age youth. Regardless of what I do or where I go, I always surround myself by community. However, more recently, I’ve put aside time for reading Black radical nonfiction, ancestor work, and meditation. This in addition to spending time out in the community has helped me better understand the meaning of liberation.

Artist

Samad Raheem Guerra
Dance Artist, Choreographer and Writer

Samad Raheem Guerra is a director, multidisciplinary performing artist and arts educator based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He received his BA in World Arts and Cultures/Dance from UCLA in 2014. Since graduating, he has worked as a teaching artist, program coordinator at a youth homeless shelter and toured internationally with CONTRA-TIEMPO. He has also performed at the Hollywood Bowl and Ford Amphitheater with Viver Brasil and Sergio Mendes, and co-produced his own work at the LACMA, Main Museum in downtown Los Angeles, Hamburger Bahnhof and daadgalerie in Berlin, Germany. 

Currently, Guerra directs the World Dance program at S.O.T.A, an audition-based performing arts high school in San Francisco. When Guerra is not teaching or working on art projects, he enjoys spending time in the wilderness. A big part of his healing practice also includes the ancient practice of sweating, which involves prayer and meditation. It has helped him stay grounded and connect to his higher purpose in life. He is grateful to the community of Navajo elders and teachers who introduced him to the practice and continue to be a source of inspiration in his life. Aho Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ (To All My Relations)

Rachel Hernandez

Day Three: June 9, 2021

In our current political state, the intergenerational emotional trauma of Black people has fully resurfaced due to cycles of programmed fear and white supremacy. Babalú-Aye has returned to earth to teach us his power and respect his purpose. "I Can't Breathe." Is it Covid-19 or a knee? Fear must not continue to be weaponized. No More. America takes a look within at this tragedy. For the shadow you've cast will no longer hide the truth from the world. Black is Beautiful. We stand unified.  

Reflection Question

Rachel’s piece shares a potent and powerful message about internalized fear programmed by white supremacy. She reminds us to release internalized and programmed fear and return to the truth that Black is beautiful. How do you release fear from your body, mind, and spirit? What are ways we can continue the process of releasing fear and returning to our truth both individually and collectively? 

Artist Q&A

How did you get introduced to Afro-Brazilian dance and culture and what about it deeply resonated with you?

I was introduced to Afro-Brazilian dance at the source in Salvador, Bahia. I traveled there in early 2006 after a series of undeniable dreams calling me strongly to that place. I believe my studies in Salvador resonated so much with me because it was part of my destiny to journey with Orixa and connect me with ancestral knowledge denied to me due to the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

What thought leaders and artists inform your current works?

The current political climate is what we use to inform our work always. What’s needed now? Where are we now? In addition we try to operate in the vain of past present and future. There are so many ancestors deified and otherwise that have laid the foundation for how we understand our world. It is our job to expand upon their legacies and struggles, create abundance in the present while laying the foundation for the future.

How do you incorporate the Orixas and spiritual practice into your composition?

The Orixa exist within all of us and in every part of nature and life. They help us to understand and make sense of our humanity. When we create work the question always is what am I trying to say, learn, express, and/or feel? Once the message has been identified we work with and feature artists that are vessels of their craft. Therefore no matter what the instrument/body/voice used, the spirit is being invoked to teach us lessons about ourselves that not even we can predict at times. They cast reminders of the beauty, strength, struggle, and joy that exists within the complexity of us. Instead of trying to abstract cultural practices or try to place the aesthetic of Orixa explicitly, we inform our work by delving deeply into mastery and use every ancestral tool available. Each piece feels like a journey, an invitation, and innovation because understanding ritual is freedom as these practices have sustained life itself. The Deity Babalú-Aye was featured in this piece F.E.A.R False Evidence Appearing Real.

How do you and your community honor and uplift the legacy of Juneteenth?

We at Extra Ancestral honor Black people 365 days a year.
Each year we create a work for Juneteenth that speaks to past, present, and future. We strive for
liberation and create opportunities for education.

Artist

Rachel Hernandez
Dance Artist and Choreographer

Extra Ancestral is a cultural movement dedicated to educating and entertaining audiences through the fusion of different cultural manifestations of the African Diaspora. In their performances, audiences are likely to experience genres such as Afrobeat, Reggae, Jazz, Salsa, and many traditional African musical forms of the Diaspora. Narrated through powerful ancestral dancing, Extra Ancestral provides an in-depth education of temporal and geographic borders from Africa to the Americas and back, providing lessons from the past to hone tools for the future. Music and dance are the ensemble’s healing tools, and led by some of LA’s most dynamic artists, their revolutionary performances of black survival invoke while poignantly resisting 500 years of forced transatlantic passages between West Africa and the Americas. Extra Ancestral unifies music, dance, visual arts, and community engagement as forms of empowerment to reduce the trans generational trauma that exists in communities of color. Historically, music and dance have been considered the oldest form of medicine and Extra Ancestral seeks to combine the tradition of healing through their performances to elevate and empower communities of color. Their vision manifests into performance productions, dance classes, workshops and music education with artists from across the African Diaspora.  Co-Artistic Director Kahlil Cummings, Rachel Hernandez, and Alberto Lopez.

Jamael Dean

Day Four: June 9, 2021

This airy dream-like song, titled Kronos, is an original by Jamael Dean and a single from his album Black Tapes Space. Jamael explains his album’s title: “Black is used to give reverence to the spirit of nothing that preceded all in the universe which, throughout the album, is referred to as Akamara. Space is used to allude to the ever-expansiveness of our beings, matter, and time itself. Tapes shows the marriage of those two ideas (i.e the stickiness of tape) and how the album is a vessel of sound that grows with you (i.e. cassette tapes). Black Space Tapes shows the evolution of how music played a role in my life, from jazz to rap and beyond that. It’s a river of shifting patterns, and temperatures that show we as humans are instruments striving towards harmony in nature.” Jamael performed Kronos alongside Sharada Shashidhar on vocals, Devin Daniels on alto saxophone, Mekala Session on drums, and Chris Palmer on bass.

Reflection Questions

Jamael shares a deep connection with his grandfather, who introduced him to music and a world of talented Black artists. Jamael invites us to explore how all forms of music — jazz, R&B, samba, cumbia, pop, country, classical, and k-pop — are influenced by Black culture. What is your favorite style of music? Please spend time researching your favorite type of music and honor the Black artistry and ingenuity that has brought us a rich array of sounds and more! 

Artist Q&A

Which artists have shaped your creative evolution?

The first artist to shape my creative evolution would be Donald Dean. My grandfather had a huge impact on me as a child because of how fun it was to go to his gigs. It was freeing to see him interact with his friends in hilarious ways and get back on the bandstand to share that same feeling with everyone there. He introduced me to the music of Thelonious Monk, Bobby Timmons, Ahmad Jamal, Herbie Hancock, and a lot of other artists. Some of the artists who left the biggest impact on me were Horace Tapscott, Alice Coltrane, Sun Ra, Mary Lou Williams, Randy Weston, and Kenny Kirkland. I learn something new every time I listen to their music. Their music never gets old.

How did you first get introduced to your instrument and why did it speak to you?

I got started on the piano after playing violin in school when I was spending a lot of time on video games. My parents eventually took them out of our house and so I asked for a piano shortly after. I asked because I loved hearing my grandfather play with Les McCann and the sound of the piano and keyboards in their music. It made me pay attention to that more in other music too. They got one for me as a gift and I kept at it.

What social messages do you convey with your art and compositional style?

What I portray musically and compositionally is my love for what came before. Just like my grandfather passed on the knowledge of a lot of great music to me, our ancestors have done the same historically and I aim to capture and honor that in my music.

How do you and your community honor and uplift the legacy of Juneteenth?

Juneteenth is a time of celebration for my community and me. It’s a time to be grateful for our health and family, and to remember that which has been lost. We uplift each other by embracing our roots which usually takes the form of festivals involving good food, music, a lot of art, and support from everyone there.

Artist

Jamael Dean
Pianist and Producer

Pianist and producer Jamael Dean is a jazz prodigy. Just 22 years old, he’s already collaborated and performed with the likes of Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson and Carlos Niño. 
 

Jamael's music reflects the dual influence of his Los Angeles contemporaries and jazz ancestors, including Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane, Herbie Hancock and soul jazz drummer Donald Dean — who is also his grandfather. LA, he says, is “the only place I can go in the same day to a jam session with music from the 20s and 30s to another session with music in the 40s through the 80s, and after that play music with my friends from that era onwards."

Kibrom Birhane

Day Five: June 11, 2021

Kibrom Birhane shares with us two tracks, Tizizta & Zelesegna.

Tizita is a traditional folk song and means Nostalgia. In Tizizta, Kirbom plays a krar, which is a traditional instrument from Ethiopia. “Tizizta” is also a scale, like blues, where musicians just jam on instruments with other people, vocals, or just a solo like this video. 

In the second track, Kibrom plays and sings an original arrangement inspired by an Ethiopian Orthodox Church chant called Zelesegna.
 

Reflection Questions

Kibrom shared with us, “As an individual who came from the only African country which was never colonized, I know what freedom means.” What does freedom feel like in your body, mind, and spirit? What people, places, activities, and sensations that to come to find when you remember and/or envisions embodied freedom? 

Reflection Questions

What artists, flavors, color, and textures from Ethiopia do you weave into your current creative practice?

My current creative practice weaves into mostly Ethiopian folk music that I used to listen to when I grew up. The songs of my childhood, soundtracks from the radio, artists like Kassa Tessema, Mulatu Astatke, Girma Beyene, and Emahoy Tsegue to name a few.

What are three records you go to for inspiration?

Emahoy Tsegue - Maryam Guebrou “Ethiopiques Vol.21”, Kassa Tessema “Fano”, and   Mulatu Astatke “New York - Addis - London”

What are some messages you hope your music will spread?

I want my music to encourage, spread Love, unity and living in harmony.

How do you and your community honor and uplift the legacy of Juneteenth?

As an individual who came from the only African country which was never colonized, I know what freedom means. Our nation knows what freedom is so when we come to the US and see all the racial inequality, we cannot stand to it. For that reason, me and my Ethiopian community highly support and celebrate the legacy of Juneteenth and the freedom of African American people in America.


 

Artist

Kibrom Birhane
Pianist and Composer

As an Ethiopian-born multi-instrumentalist and keyboardist extraordinaire, Kibrom Birhane is a leader among jazz artists — mixing spiritual and Ethiopian jazz motifs to create a uniquely deep sound that resonates across cultures and musical concepts. Kibrom with him an ancient tradition, a spirit of dedication to roots and ever-expanding innovation. Kibrom’s deep understanding of Ethiopian tradition and sublime ability to fuse those sounds with funk, gospel, pop, and folk earned him an All African Music Award nomination for best male artist.

Felicia “ONYI" Richards

Day Six: June 14, 2021

ONYI invites you to surrender to the vibration of sound — the sound of prayer, the sound of song, the sound of healing and remembering. These sounds are experienced and have an effect on many levels and multiple senses.

She opens with a prayer to the Ancestors, continues with pieces from her album Songs of Soothing (“Bara Suwa Yo - A Song for Eṣu” and “For the Love of Ogun”), and closes with sweet reminders to your spirit over her additional meditative composition. 

Eṣu (Esu/Exu) is the Divine Messenger and owner of the crossroads. He opens and closes the roads, and deals with choices and change. 

Ogun is a warrior and protector. He reminds us of our connection to Earth and each other. He clears the path and helps us achieve breakthroughs.

May the road to liberation be opened wide and cleared completely. May we remember our freedom.

The songs in ONYI's performance appear as follow:

A Prayer to the Ancestors
Bara Suwa Yo - A Song for Eṣu (Complete)
For the Love of Ogun
A Closing Sound Immersion & Reminder

Across all of the music during the piece, the musicians are:

Lazaro Galarraga - Bata
Bobby Wilmore - Bata
JP Maramba - Upright Bass
Greg Allison - Violin, Viola
Simon Carroll - Snare Drum
Bobby Easton - Steel Pan
ONYI LOVE: Vocals, Piano, Vibraphone, Congas, Shekere, Singing Bowls, Bells, Shakers, Sticks, Agogo, Surdo, Block”.

Reflection Questions

ONYI’s performance and story incorporate her deep connection with the Oriṣa — African divinities that are connected to the elements and to certain qualities of nature. How do you remain connected to nature, the elements, and your spirituality? Can you find a time this week — no matter how short or long — to connect to and feel the elements all around and allow them to support your sense of ease and connection? 

Artist Q&A

How do you blend your music and healing practices?

A big part of what I bring and the healing work that I do is grounding energies and holding space for the divine to manifest. I also create an environment that allows for individuals to open up to more awareness, clarity, peace, and joy. It is often through music — sound vibration — that I support these experiences. Whether I am playing instruments that many people associate with sound therapy during healing sessions, using my voice in toning and chanting in ritual/ceremony, or doing a conventional performance, the energy of healing comes through. I have done (and continue to do) a great deal of work to clear and heal myself, and to become more at ease and at peace. The vibration of my own breakthrough and transformation emanates through all of my music to remind others that have permission to intend for and experience the same.

What messages and narratives do you explore in your current work? 

In much of my work, the messages I bring deal with hope, remembering who we are, our connection to our ancestors, and everything/everyone else around us. I often incorporate the Oriṣa in my music—whether singing specific folkloric chants from different branches of Ifa/Oriṣa worship or making reference to them in some other way. As divinities that are connected to various elements and aspects of nature, their energies remind us of our natures and the divinity within us. By including the Oriṣa, I am also transforming a narrative that has a good portion of us believing that many things African —spirituality in particular — are wrong, irrelevant, or outdated. I am publicly claiming and communing with them and thus accepting myself given that they are a part of my genetic lineage. In reclaiming them and other elements of my ancestral practices, I am stepping into and forward as my power, and reminding others that they too can do the same.

How do you practice embodying joy and liberation? 

The name that was given to me during my initiation into the mysteries of Oṣun is Oṣuntayo, which means Oṣun is [enough as] my joy. So the assignment I have been given is to literally be a walking reflection of joy. I had done much healing to chip away at thoughts, words, and behaviors that are contrary to joy. I practice embodying joy by not limiting what it can look like. I work to seek joy in all experiences, even the ones I may not prefer. By considering what I am learning from even the most challenging of situations, I remember the joy in growth and expansion. I give gratitude for it all, which supports me in maintaining the joy. When I hold hands with and come from my joy, I remember that I am free— I have always been free. Even if someone made an attempt to infringe upon my movement or access to resources, I have the freedom to choose how I respond to and transform that energy. I am at liberty to allow that experience to make or break me. I am free regardless of the actions of others. Freedom is my birthright. That is the joy of Existence.

How do you and your community honor and uplift the legacy of Juneteenth? 

I am blessed to be a part of a larger community and connected in various ways to many other communities that embody so many inspirational qualities. When I look specifically at my Afro-diasporic communities, I see the richness and beauty of the various practices — spiritual, artist, cultural, reformational, etc. — they are steeped in, the reverence for our ancestors, the honoring of Earth, and striving towards remembering our balance and connection. To even make any of these a priority and way of life speaks to the immense amount of hope, faith, and trust we all maintain. The world(s) can be challenging to navigate at times, and people can be cruel to each other. To not give up on life or humanity in light of the negativity, is indicative of courage, grace, and steadfastness. In addition to any specific celebrations and festivities any of us may be a part of, maintaining these values is how we honor and uplift the legacy of Juneteenth.

Artist

Felicia “ONYI" Richards
Vocalist, Composer and Healer

Felicia “ONYI" Richards is an artist and healer. Modalities she utilizes include PureBioenergy, Sound Healing, Spiritual Life Coaching, Ritual and Ceremony. ONYI is a practitioner of Ifa, a traditional philosophical and spiritual system developed by the Yoruba people of West Africa (primarily Nigeria and Benin), and practiced throughout the world. Within this system, she is an initiate of Oṣun and Obatala, and is on a lifelong journey of priestesshood. As an artist, she goes by the name ONYI LOVE and expresses her creative energy through music (primarily as a vocalist), reflective writing, and adornment creation, amongst other things.  

In all she does, ONYI is dedicated to guiding people through their journey of awareness, self-love, grounding, and healing. Through the powerful tools of her art and healing work (which often overlap), and the wisdom she has gained from life experiences, observations, and teachings from elders, she assists people in igniting the fires within to create energetic shifts that ripple through every part of their being. She encourages everyone to remember that we and all of our experiences are gifts. We have all been gifted with the power to transform and be in command of our existence.

William Alexander

Day Seven: June 15, 2021

On a sunny spring afternoon in Los Angeles, three friends convened to fellowship in music. Caleb Buchanan and Myles Martin bring their extraordinary gifts of spirit in sound, to breathe life into an original composition of William Alexander, "Blue Skies." Opting for the natural light-drenched comfort of Caleb’s home in South Los Angeles rather than booking a studio, the ensemble (tentatively called BLACK RENAISSANCE) offers a casual glimpse into their musical bond — captured by Mokichi Kawaguchi and Engineered by Matthew Gamboa. The song ruminates upon the various stages of guilt found in pursuing fleeting pleasures — and the resolution found in accepting them as growth in the universal love.

Reflection Questions

In William’s interview below, he shared that, “we honor this holiday’s legacy, by means of our defiant existence, and our will to fight for truth.” How do you advocate for truth within yourself, families, workspaces, and communities? 

Artist Q&A

How do you blend your different ancestral backgrounds in your practice and style?

Maybe the biggest way I blend my ancestry in my practice and style is through the act itself of synthesizing so many influences...  Okinawa and the American South have historically been mixing pots – Okinawa bearing influence from all of Southeast Asia, and the American South from the Spanish, Native American, West African, French Caribbean, etc.  I’ve always felt in between the lines of convention – culturally and even physically...  I try to illuminate the value in this with my art practice, and I feel like my biggest strength lies in my vast range of influences and how I synthesize them into a whole.

What are three records you go to for inspiration?

Erasmo Carlos - Sonhos E Memorias
His voice has such a simple understated beauty that exemplifies the anti-machismo of Brazilian vocal styling. There is no standout technical prowess within this record, and yet the thoughtful soulfulness places it deep in the timeless category.

Ras G - Raw Fruit, Vol. 1
There is no artist that is as much themselves as Ras G was. His work to me feels the most spiritual, and deeply rooted in a zen-like practice — as if music were a way of life, rather than some goal-oriented way of elevating the ego.

Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland
I just don’t think there’s anyone else that captured the zeitgeist of the 60’s free feeling love explosion so profoundly. Of course, technical mastery offers a lifetime of study in itself, but maybe the biggest takeaway is just the living of life so fully and freely.

What messages do your share within your lyrics and compositions? 

I have a lot of interest in ideas around acceptance and perceptions regarding beauty. Maybe the open and improvisatory aspect of my compositions highlights this idea around illuminating the beauty of what is natural, in contrast to contrived beauty based on manufactured notions of perfection.

Lately, I try to take inspiration from the moment so as to capture the spirit of raw feelings as they come. I tend to stray towards streams of conscious methods of composing, and often times the messages have a lot to do with my mental state. I believe in the power of intention in one’s word, so I hope to maximize the healing capacity of sound, and instill positive vibrations in this dimension — while simultaneously holding space for human error.

Artist

William Alexander
Multi-intrumentalist and Composer

William Alexander conjures stone souled rustic fonk, drawing from the raw stylings of detroit punk, and the softer subtleties of 70’s tropicalia. Having developed his musical sensibilities in the wake of LA’s Low End Theory movement - the Altadena native’s guitar heavy songs swim in the hip hop multiverse, while his love of jazz buoys the laissez faire spirit streaming throughout. William’s keen ear saw him writing, recording every instrument, and mixing all his music thus far, a la Shuggie Otis, Andre Evans, etc. His latest single “Blue Skies” was released on Preference Records in 2020.

Nailah Hunter

Day Eight: June 16, 2021

This performance is a stripped-down version of “Black Valhalla,” a piece Nailah Hunter wrote after the lynchings of two young black men in Palmdale, CA. 

Reflection Questions

Nailah’s stunning piece repeats the line, “tell me when you’ve made it home,” reminding us of the nuanced reality that we must look out for each other. What are the ways you practice community care and safety within your communities, families, friendships, and neighborhood to empower each other? How would you begin to shift away from structures and systems never created nor intended to serve and protect BIPOC communities? Who do you reach out to for community safety and care?

Artist Q&A

How did you first start playing the harp?

I was gifted a small harp when I started art college. I began concert harp lessons at the school soon after that.

What drew you to the harp?

I fell in love with the transportive, diaphanous timbre of the harp when I was very young. Film composers love to use harp for fantasy scores, so I listened to a lot of harp music as a child. The way it can sound like falling water, bright bells, and the deepest caverns in the sea, all at once, is what makes it irresistible to me.

What colors, textures, and visuals currently inspire your compositions?

I've been exploring the sound of age. I already play an instrument that most people associate with the days of yore, so I've been experimenting with pedals and microphones to find that sound that conjures images of ancient warmth, like candlelight.

What are the ways you practice radical rest?

Communing with nature always feels like a radical act of care. Lately, I've been enjoying solo trips to the beach with my littlest harp. When I sing into the roar of the sea and play whatever comes to me I feel free.

How do you and your community honor and uplift the legacy of Juneteenth?

I honor the legacy of Juneteenth by openly reflecting on black history, by talking about it with people who don't know what Juneteenth is, by acknowledging the great triumphs of black people, by somehow pushing through the pain & injustice, and cultivating joy in my life.

Artist

Nailah Hunter
Harpist, Vocalist and Composer

Nailah Hunter is a multi-instrumentalist and composer from Los Angeles. She combines harp, synth, found sounds, and voice to create reflective sonic landscapes that promote healing and self-awareness for herself and the listener. Her ambient music conjures unique sonic locations forged by imagination, drawing listeners into a tranquil world of rest, contemplation and color.  Her recent releases include Bassin Bleu (Mexican Summer), Spells (Leaving Records), and Black Valhalla (single available on Bandcamp) which was created to support the Loveland Foundation.

Josh Johnson

Day Nine: June 17, 2021

A spontaneous improvisation leading into a solo performance of Josh Johnson's song "Western Ave" from his 2020 release, Freedom Exercise. "Western Ave" is an Afrobeat-inspired tribute to Chicago and Los Angeles, cities that have been important to Josh's personal and musical growth. Both cities also share a thoroughfare of the same name, Western Avenue.

Reflection Questions

In his interview, Josh shares with us that he’s “inspired by the folks who've been making their voices heard in the street, and who continue to push us all.” Who are the change-makers, activists, and cultural workers who inspire you? Spend a few minutes looking into some local Black change-makers and follow, highlight, and/or fund and support their work.

Artist Q&A

Which sounds and artists do you currently have on rotation?

Most recently I've been listening to Mal Waldron, Jahari Massamba Unit, Maleem Mahmoud Ghania, Don Cherry, and Georgia Anne Muldrow — all of whom consistently exceed the frame.

What texts or books do you source as inspiration?

Everything experienced serves as inspiration. James Baldwin is a forever inspiration. The writings of Fred Moten, Octavia Butler, and Morgan Parker have been inspiring me this year.

Which activists and change-makers inform and inspire your work?

I'm inspired by the folks who've been making their voices heard in the street and who continue to push us all.

How do you and your community honor and uplift the legacy of Juneteenth?

Fellowship and reflection on the beauty and richness of blackness. My birthday is the day after Juneteenth and I can't help but feel that continuing to grow and having life is uplifting the legacy of Juneteenth.

Artist

Josh Johnson
Saxophonist, Multi-instrumentalist and Composer

Josh Johnson is a saxophonist, keyboardist, multi-instrumentalist, and composer. He has performed extensively with the likes of Jeff Parker, Kiefer, Makaya McCraven, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Leon Bridges, and Marquis Hill.

Johnson can be heard on records by all of these artists, as well as records from the Chicago Underground Quartet, Jeremy Cunningham, Mark de Clive-Lowe, Dawes, Dexter Story, Louis Cole, and Joshua White.

Since 2018, Johnson has been the musical director, keyboardist, and saxophonist for Leon Bridges, which has taken him to Europe, Asia, and Australia. Highlights of his time with Bridges include sold-out performances at Radio City Music Hall, Greek Theater, and the Hollywood Bowl.

Johnson currently resides in Los Angeles.

Kara Jenelle

Day Ten: June 18, 2021

ÌYÁguration is a dance film celebrating the history, resilience, joy, and sisterhood across the African Diaspora. Honoring the legacy developed by great mothers of this world and celebrating Black women is the inaugural work.

Reflection Questions

Kara’s piece celebrates Black women, their legacy in movement work, and their ingenuity in all aspects of life. How can you actively continue to elevate the legacy and histories of Black women and femmes? Who are some powerful Black women and femmes you can support, follow, fund, hire, and/or center? 

Artist Q&A

What dance activists have inspired your path?

Activism plays an integral part in my life from inspiration and the reason “WHY” I dance; to representation and the mission to create change through my artistry. Activists such as Shirley Chisolm, Tamika Mallory, and Nina Simone are some of the women who have informed my creative vision. Choreographers such as Camille A. Brown, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, and Liz Lerman are three inspirations that have utilized dance to create stories of culture and “artivism” and whose paths have also molded the trajectory of my career.

What artists and thought leaders keep you inspired and motivated?

On a more personal level, I have to give so much love and admiration to Dr. Shamell Bell, Nina Flagg, Rachel Hernandez, and Ana Maria Alvarez for being local examples of success when it comes to their artistry and activism. Not only have they each created their own collectives and/or companies; but they also represent women of color, based in/or from Los Angeles, while also connecting academia and their art forms to the streets and stages around the world.

What does radical joy mean to you?

Radical Joy to me, means unapologetic happiness. The bliss that comes from breaking barriers is birthed from being aligned in your destiny. JOY is from my passion and the RADICAL movement is established in my unique approach to be loud in my truth!

How do you and your community honor and uplift the legacy of Juneteenth?

As a young girl, my parents would always take my siblings and me around the monuments and Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC. We were taught at an early age about the sacrifices that were made in order for us to participate in public schools, have the chance to pursue any career path, and take pride in our culture and identity as African- Americans. Though textbooks taught us otherwise, in my household, we knew that our history did not begin with slavery and Independence Day was not the same for our people as it was for the majority of our nation. So, Juneteenth has always been a time to acknowledge the Emancipation Proclamation of 1865 as the beginning of our freedom in America. Annually, I participate in liberation movements, festivals, art performances, and more to bring awareness and advocacy to black issues and the correct information surrounding our heritage and history. We also promote Black-owned businesses and markets — such as Leimert Park — and opportunities to share knowledge in communal and educational settings for the next generation. This work, ÌYÁguration is just a moment into that celebration and the work that will continue to positively represent my people and culture through black excellence.

Artist

Kara Jenelle
Dance Artist, Choreographer and Scholar

Kara Jenelle (KJ) is a dance performer, choreographer and teaching artist based in Los Angeles. Since relocating from Washington, DC she has worked as a performer and choreographer for artists such as Janet Jackson, Lauryn Hill, Black Eyed Peas, Beyoncé, Jidenna, Khalid, and Will Smith just to name a few. Her work has been seen on platforms such as BET, Black Girls Rock, NBC’s The Voice, Nike, Lifetime, Essence and more! As an international educator she has taught in over 10 countries and she works diligently to represent the African diaspora in the commercial dance industry. KJ is completing her MFA at UCLA as a Graduate Fellow while always advocating for the culture and encouraging positive representation of black women through her movement.  While balancing her work between academia and advocacy throughout the crisis of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, KJ’s mission is to amplify voices from marginalized communities while also establishing impactful solutions and content. She is currently a faculty member at Movement Lifestyle (LA) and for the annual Ladies of Hip Hop Festival. Kara Jenelle is the Founder of Delta Chi Xi Honorary Dance Fraternity, Inc and a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.

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