Celebrate Juneteenth with These Musically Minded Poets

Falling on the 19th of June each year, Juneteenth is a national commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States—or, more specifically, the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans that occurred in Galveston, Texas in 1865. It is an emotional day for many, bringing both joy and sorrow as communities reflect on all the lives affected by hundreds of years of oppression and racial injustice in the United States.


Recognized as a federal holiday just this week, the occasion has taken on a variety of forms since its inception. In the years immediately following 1865, it was common for families to gather, pray, and in some cases even make a pilgrimage to Galveston. Today, celebrations range from backyard barbecues to city-wide parades and festivals. Food, music, and even poetry have been major players in Juneteenth celebrations throughout the years.


For two multi-talented poets and musicians, Juneteenth presents an opportunity to honor Black Americans, both present and past, in perhaps the best way they know how: with their art.


Tank Ball

Tarriona “Tank” Ball


Tarriona “Tank” Ball, lead vocalist of the Grammy-nominated musical group Tank and the Bangas and author of breakout poetry collection Vulnerable AF, will be performing “in celebration of [her] ancestors” for a Juneteenth event at Levitt Pavilion in Dayton, Ohio.


Speaking about the upcoming performance, Ball says, “I feel the immense weight and honor to perform for such a pin in my history.”


Valerie June

Valerie June Hockett


Also an accomplished musician and poet, Valerie June Hockett—author of Maps for the Modern World—will be performing at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. on Juneteenth in an event called Black Women Breaking Ground. She is part of a lineup that includes four-time Grammy Award-winning luminary Angélique Kidjo and internationally acclaimed and Grammy Award-winning R&B vocalist Estelle. Here’s what Hockett has to say about the concert:


“I’m thrilled to be performing at The Kennedy Center for Juneteenth. It’s truly a celebration in honor of the spirit of my favorite African American poets: Langston Hughes, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Audre Lorde, Gwendolyn Brooks, Phillis Wheatley, and Maya Angelou.”


Find tickets to the Tank and the Bangas performance here and Black Women Breaking Ground here.


And for more bookish Juneteenth happenings, check out the Black Owned Bookstore Collective x GMA Book Club’s virtual conversation featuring Rashida Jones and Zakiya Dalila Harris, author of The Other Black Girl; Semicolon’s Juneteenth Book Fair; and the grand opening of Kansas City independent bookstore BLK + BRWN.