Celebrate Juneteenth This Year With These Free Virtual Events

Spend the day listening, learning, and commemorating this defining moment in history.

Courtesy of Getty Images/Justin Merriman /Stringer

Juneteenth -- the annual celebration marking the end of slavery -- has never quite received the type of recognition such a celebration deserves. June 19 is still (after 155 years) not yet a national holiday. So we as a society must work harder to commemorate this defining event. This year, we'll have to do so while social distancing, but that needn't hinder your festivities. Organizations across the country are holding virtual events, so we can learn, celebrate, and observe this historic day.

Attend a virtual music festival 

Due to the pandemic, drinking overpriced concert beer and mosh pitting through a sweaty crowd of people is out of the question. But that doesn't mean fest season is canceled altogether. The 2020 Juneteenth Music Festival has gone virtual, so we can honor and celebrate Black artists all the same. The event kicks off Thursday, June 18, with the DREAM BIG Awards, commending individuals that have made an impactful change in their community. Between each presentation, viewers will experience music performances, live podcasts, a virtual cypher, an online dance competition, a comedy show, and a financial literacy segment.

Organizers are also asking its virtual attendees to share what they've learned about Juneteenth on social media alongside the hashtag #IamJuneteenth, as part of a social media awareness campaign. 

Check out the Smithsonian's celebration of resistance

The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture is hosting an online Juneteenth celebration with a live performance of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" by Rochelle Rice, an ancestry workshop with Robert F. Smith, a series of presentations on the history and significance of Juneteenth, as well as a special segment featuring storyteller Diane Macklin. The event will be presented online all day Friday, June 19, and Saturday, June 20. 

Educate yourself at a Zoom panel on prosecution and racial injustice

Knowledge is one our greatest weapons in fighting inequality, and on June 19 at 11am, you have the chance to learn from accomplished figures. John Jay College is hosting a panel discussion via Zoom on prosecution and racial injustice in our country. You can sit in on the conversation with author and professor of law James Forman, Cook Country, Illinois State's Attorney Kim Foxx, college president Karol Mason, and National Religious Campaign Against Torture's Johnny Perez, hosted by Institute for Innovation in Prosecution director and former Manhattan assistant district attorney Lucy Lang. You can sign up for the event through the webinar registration.

Support Black artists at an online gallery show 

The Austin Revitalization Authority, a community and economic development corporation, is hosting a virtual artist exhibition in honor of Juneteenth, showcasing up-and-coming Black artists. You can tune in for the event, which will go live on Facebook at 7pm ET on June 18, for an evening of visual arts and spoken word. Several pieces featured in the show will touch on issues in the Black community, systemic oppression, and police brutality. 

Sit in on a virtual town hall discussion 

Brooklyn-based BRIC TV is holding its virtual #BHeard Town Hall on YouTube Live to discuss "freedom in Black communities as they grapple with COVID-19, benign neglect, and state-sanctioned violence." Between 7pm and 8pm June 19, a group of artists, activists, and community change makers will chat in honor of Juneteenth. Panelists include majority leader of the New York City Council Laurie Cumbo, organizer, political commentator, and journalist Rosa Clemente, executive director of the Police Reform Organizing Project Robert Gangi, with BRIC TV managing editor Brian Vines moderating. 

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Megan Schaltegger is a staff writer at Thrillist.