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(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)
Civic Life

A resource guide for Black liberation, just in time for Juneteenth

Juneteenth 2021: Movies, books, events, and podcasts to try

The world may have just woken up to Juneteenth in the last year, but we — and countless Black musical artists, podcasters, filmmakers, organizers and everyday people — been knew. If you’re in search of cultural content that will shake up your Juneteenth in the best way, with narratives and portraits of Black joy, Black love and Black freedom, look no further. From a must-follow TikTok creator to experimental short films, we’ve got you covered. Consider this a resource guide for Black liberation.

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(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

BROWSE: On YouTube, there’s an entire world of both well-known and obscure interview recordings that show Black people getting free.

Take the iconic clip of Toni Morrison from a 1993 interview with Charlie Rose in which the writer — with her silver coif, hoop earrings and a red lip — says she feels superior to racist white people: “I always knew I had the moral high ground. All my life.”

Or a now-viral 1995 interview Venus Williams did with ABC News: It shows the then-14-year-old burgeoning tennis star proclaiming that she knew she could beat her opponent. Her confident, nonchalant smirk burns into the screen. “You say it so easily,” the interviewer asks. “Why?” This is when Venus drops the mike: “‘Cause I believe it.” At this point, her father steps into the frame and drags the journalist for challenging his daughter’s aplomb: “You’re dealing with a little Black kid, and let her be a kid. She done answered it with a lot of confidence. Leave that alone!”

Then there’s James Baldwin sounding off on love in an interview with Mavis Nicholson before the writer’s death in 1987: “If you can’t love anybody, you are dangerous … you have no way of learning humility.”

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(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

WATCH: The Black avant-garde movement of the 20th century never got its full moment in the spotlight, but a host of women and nonbinary directors are working to change that. “Afronauts,” written and directed by Nuotama Bodomo, is a Black futurist 2014 short film inspired by real events. It chronicles a group of Zambian exiles as they try to beat America’s Apollo 11 to the moon on July 16, 1969. The black-and-white film — which is being developed into a full-length feature — was nominated for prizes at Sundance and AFI, among other festivals, and can be streamed on YouTube.

Jenn Nkiru‘s 2019 short “Black to Techno” employs a collage of styles and media in its fascinating exploration of “the circumstances that birthed the movement” of Detroit’s techno music subculture. The film is the final installment of four parts in Gucci and Frieze’s Second Summer of Love series, and you can watch it on YouTube.

In celebration of the holiday, you can stream “Miss Juneteenth” (2020), written and directed by Channing Godfrey Peoples. Turquoise, or Turq (Nicole Beharie), struggles to get her daughter Kai (Alexis Chikaeze) interested in the Miss Juneteenth pageant that she won years ago. The film offers a message of hope and heritage in Texas, the birthplace of Juneteenth. Stream the title on Kanopy or Amazon.

Then there’s “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” (2019): This moving semi-autobiographical film directed by Joe Talbot is an intricate and visually stunning portrait of gentrification in one of America’s most expensive cities. Through Jimmie Fails (Jimmie Fails) and his childhood friend Mont (Jonathan Majors), we witness firsthand the changing landscape of San Francisco and how artistic vulnerability and friendship can be a source of healing — all too uncommon in portrayals of Black men. You can find the film on Kanopy and Amazon.

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    (Micah Fluellen / Los Angles Times)

    FOLLOW: Taylor Cassidy (@taylorcassidyj) is responsible for some of the most accessible Black history lessons and cultural criticism on TikTok. From deciphering the connection between Black people and anime to explaining the history of Juneteenth, her posts are funny and illuminating. “Freedom isn’t always free, but it will come to those who fight for it — and you know we’ll fight for it,” she says in one of her posts. Let her break it down for you. It will really hit. Promise.

    You know the internet is a special place when a school administrator from Georgia garners a TikTok following for reciting pop songs in Maya Angelou’s unmistakable voice: Emmanuel Reddish (@emmanuelreddish) has taken on “No Scrubs” by TLC, “Act Up” by City Girls and even Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice” in an Angelou impression that’s so spot-on it’s scary (and hilarious).

    How Black moms be when shoe shopping for the kids. How grown folks be behind the grill at the Black family cookout. How Black men who work on yards be. Creator Shay Moore (itsjust.shaymoore) is known for her incisive, hilarious impressions of quotidian Black culture. You’ll laugh, you’ll feel seen.

    illustration of a woman reading a book while holding a glass
    (Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

    READ: This is the year of Black joy and Black love, and your bookshelf should reflect that. Try out “Meet Cute Diary” by Emery Lee for a fresh take on predictable and drab teen romance novels. In it, young Noah Ramirez fantasizes about the perfect love story on his blog, which shares a name with the book’s title, by publishing what his adoring readers believe are real-life vignettes of trans love. Fantasize is the key word, it turns out, because all the stories are fake. When a handsome solution to Noah’s exposure as a fraud comes along, he learns to navigate the very love story he’d been writing on the internet. “Meet Cute Diary” reinvents familiar tropes for a new audience and is the perfect feel-good read for both Pride and Juneteenth.

    For classic literary takes on Black America and the legacy of slavery, you can return to the Ralph Ellison material you read in high school English (“Invisible Man” is the classic example, but passages from the posthumously published “Juneteenth” manuscript are brilliant); “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Harlem Renaissance-era author Zora Neale Hurston; or “Things Fall Apart” by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. To purchase these titles, check out Bookshop.org to support local indie bookstores, or browse L.A.'s Black-owned bookstores.

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    illustration of man with wireless air buds in
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    LISTEN: Bloggers Kid Fury and Crissle host the weekly podcast “The Read,” and as they put it, “no star is safe unless their name is Beyoncé. (Or Blue Ivy.)” The irreverent and joyful duo roast a wide range of celebrities in politics and entertainment, and episode descriptions are often as simple yet cryptic as “Squirrel, please...” or their “Precious: Days of Chicken Past” episode about a range of pop culture events. Check it out on Spotify, SoundCloud, and Apple Podcasts.

    The “Black History Year” podcast by PushBlack explores the Black history that schools leave out, putting the events of the past in conversation with the issues of the present. Recent episodes have delved into environmental racism, white terror and racial massacres, the historical through-line from slavery to mass incarceration and, of course, Juneteenth. You can listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube or Google Podcasts.

    illustration of man wearing saftey vest
    (Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

    VOLUNTEER: There’s a lot you can read, but there’s more you can do to support Black communities. Several L.A.-based organizations that promote racial justice through service, education and policy also take volunteers. Two of the many possibilities both create equity and safety for Black people in institutional spaces where that hasn’t always been the case: medicine and public policy. Black Women for Wellness pushes to increase access to quality medical care that is well suited to the Black women and girls they serve, and California Black Census & Redistricting Hub advocates for Black participation in civic processes like the census and redistricting (plus, its parent organization California Calls seeks to increase election engagement among infrequent voter populations).

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    (Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

    SUPPORT: WalkGoodLA, a social justice organization founded by Etienne Maurice, brings folks together for arts, health and wellness events in support of Black lives and racial equity. The nonprofit hosts a weekly donation-based yoga session at L.A. High Memorial Park called BreatheGoodLA that feels more like a party or family reunion, along with sharing anti-racism resources and information on direct action across L.A.

    Support Summaeverythang, a community center and initiative founded by local artist Lauren Halsey that brings fresh, organic produce grown in Southern California to South L.A. for free. As Halsey told The Times in 2020: “All these programs have to do with community sustainability and helping to advance the lives of folks here, and our nourishment.”

    an illustrated staggered group of 5 people
    (Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

    ATTEND: There will be no shortage of enriching — and frankly, lit — Juneteenth events happening across L.A. this Saturday. Leimert Park Rising is back with local vendors and performances in Leimert Park Village from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Watts artist Barrington Darius teams with Halsey (along with multiple organizations) for the inaugural UNIFest, a family-friendly block party celebrating Black culture from noon to 10 p.m. at the Crenshaw Family YMCA. Justice for Bruce’s Beach, an organization fighting for reparations for the Bruce family, will throw a waterfront celebration in Manhattan Beach from noon to 3 p.m.

    BONUS: If you’re in search of pure, unbridled joy (not to mention a show that must have been created by someone who just gets it way more than we do), look no further than host Nicole Byer on “Nailed It!.” The Netflix baking show is in the style of “Cupcake Wars” and “Great British Bake-Off,” with a sweet twist: No one knows what they’re doing. Byer’s quips and giggles paired with epic baking fails are a recipe for binge-worthiness (but definitely not anything edible).

    And if there’s anyone in your life who hasn’t yet gotten with the Juneteenth program, Charlie Malcolm’s educational and catchy YouTube video “Juneteenth: A Story and a Song” is a perfect way in.

    This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.