Juneteenth Unityfest 2021
June 2017. Livestream Virtual
On Saturday, June 19, 2021, the inaugural Juneteenth Unityfest presented by the Robert Randolph Foundation brought together a star-studded lineup of artists, influencers, activists and sponsors for a virtual festival.
The five-and-a-half-hour livestream, which took place just two days after Juneteenth was officially signed into law as a federal holiday, has garnered over one million views via juneteenthunityfest.com, and media partners LiveXLive, Ebony.com, and YouTube.
The inaugural Juneteenth Unityfest paid tribute to the breadth and depth of Black culture while also celebrating future potential.
The celebration kicked off with a stirring recording of Jimi Hendrix’s “Star-Spangled Banner” from his historic 1970 Atlanta Pop Festival appearance. Symbolic of the cultural shift in the mindset of the nation at the time, the performance was a perfect introduction to reflect the power and influence of Black voices and how they have impacted the course of American history.
Following the recording, the live performances kicked off with Nile Rodgers & CHIC, who brought the energy with the timeless hit single, “Good Times.” Festival founder and chairman Robert Randolph then welcomed viewers before turning the program over to the evening’s hosts: actress and author Amanda Seales and comedian JB Smoove.
One of the highlights of the night was undoubtedly the remarks made by Ms. Opal Lee. Lauded as the ‘Grandmother of Juneteenth,’ the 94-year-old activist’s commentary embodied the enthusiasm, determination and relentless perseverance she exhibited to preserve the significance of Juneteenth. Having stood in the White House just days ago, witnessing her life's work come to fruition, the weight of her words were incredibly emotional and provided a moment of reflection on how far the nation has come and a reminder of the work there is left to be done.
There was no shortage of talent as the night blazed on with outstanding performances by Earth, Wind and Fire, India Arie, Darius Rucker, Dave Matthews & Carter Beauford, Ledisi, Black Pumas, Aloe Blacc, Keb’ Mo’, Bebe Winans, Jimmie Allen, Khruangbin, Lucky Daye, Phony Ppl, Michael Franti, Judith Hill, Sheléa, The Soul Rebels and Korean Soul. Performances took place at partner venues including, Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, Brooklyn Bowl, Nashville, Mobeon Studio, Burbank, CA, and at various locations throughout the country.
Celebrity spotlights kept the event moving in between performances, with appearances by: Phylicia Rashãd, Wayne Brady, Billy Porter, Craig Robinson, Van Jones, Jon Hamm, Aisha Tyler, LeVar Burton, Zach Galifinakis, Jason Wright, Gail Devers, Zina Garrison, Wilson Cruz, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Mollie Taylor Stevenson Jr., Baratunde Thurston, and Roger Guenveur Smith. Lynn Nottage, Holly Robinson Peete, Jesse Williams, and Djimon Hounsou also made appearances, sharing personal anecdotes about what the holiday means to them. The landmark event closed with final remarks by Robert Randolph, followed by a recording of Jimi Hendrix performing “Purple Haze” at the 1970 Atlanta Pop Festival, which brought the event full circle. Finally, Nile Rodgers & CHIC played the festival out with a performance of “We Are Family,” summing up the sentiment of unity felt by performers and viewers alike.
A recording of the entire festival is available now via the official website and can be accessed by those who missed it until July 19. To view the recording, please visit: www.juneteenthunityfest.com.
Juneteenth Unityfest was made possible by phenomenal sponsors and partners like Heal America movement to fight racial injustice, EBONY as the official media partner, and LiveXLive as the official streaming partner. Additional sponsors included: Crown Royal Regal Apple, Amazon, P&G’s Widen The Screen initiative, and NFL’s Inspire Change initiative. Getty Images and OWN also provided special content.
A significant portion of the content and context for the festival came from the 35+ community partners who shared their stories about their contributions to the culture. Participating organizations include: AARP, The Africa Center, African American Museum in Philadelphia, Benedict College, Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives (FDFI), Hip Hop Caucus, HOLA, Invisible Warriors, Jobs For The Future (JFF), The Links Incorporated, Mile High United Way, Muhammad Ali Center, The National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, Reelworks, The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Umoja Events Juneteenth NYC Festival, Unity Unlimited, Inc., Usher’s New Look, and We Are Family Foundation.
Juneteenth Unityfest was produced by Empire Entertainment in collaboration with the Robert Randolph Foundation, Red Light Management with creative direction, and writing by Paul Oakley Stovall. For more information on Juneteenth Unityfest, presented by the Robert Randolph Foundation, visit www.juneteenthunityfest.com or follow on social media, including Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.