On June 19, people across the nation will celebrate the 155th anniversary of the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation to enslaved black Americans in Texas, the final state to announce the end of slavery. The holiday is referred to as Juneteenth.
In observance of the holiday and in light of recent worldwide attention for the Black Lives Matter movement, music distribution website Bandcamp will be donating their share of sales to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Iowans can also celebrate the 30th anniversary of Iowa Juneteenth by attending this year’s three-day virtual festival, streaming via DSMTV Live June 18–20.
“Even though it’s not known, Iowa is one of the worst places to actually try and thrive and be of black birth,” Des Moines hip-hop artist MarKaus, one of the organizers for Iowa Juneteenth, said. “There are so many reasons why Juneteenth is important here.”
Bandcamp has announced they will be donating 100 percent of their share of sales to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund starting this Juneteenth and in annual observance of the holiday thereafter. Hundreds of Iowa artists use the platform to sell digital downloads and physical copies of their music, as well as their merchandise.
“The recent killings of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Sean Reed, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the ongoing state-sanctioned violence against black people in the US and around the world are horrific tragedies,” Bandcamp CEO Ethan Diamond said in an online announcement.
“We stand with those rightfully demanding justice, equality, and change, and people of color everywhere who live with racism every single day, including many of our fellow employees and artists and fans in the Bandcamp community.”
In his statement, Diamond described the NAACP Legal Defense Fund as “a national organization that has a long history of effectively enacting racial justice and change through litigation, advocacy, and public education.” Bandcamp is also allocating an additional $30,000 per year to partner with organizations that “fight for racial justice and create opportunities for people of color.”
James Tutson is a black singer-songwriter from Iowa City who uses Bandcamp to distribute his music.
“Most people I know that aren't black don't even know what Juneteenth is,” Tutson said. “To see them not only have knowledge of this holiday but also celebrate it by directly supporting black Americans and the causes important to us is quite powerful. Art has always been on the frontlines of expressing protest, so it's cool to see them use our art to fuel protest.”
Cedar Valley band TWINS had decided to donate a percentage of the proceeds from their new record, Dream On, to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund before they had even heard about Bandcamp’s fundraiser.
“Equal rights for all is something all of us believe in and support to our core and we just happened to have a small opportunity to help,” TWINS guitarist and vocalist Joel Sires said.
“I don’t think I need to tell anyone that the way our fellow black Americans are being treated by police is absolutely despicable. It’s long been enough. I don’t want to live in a country where things like this are normal. Just like millions of other folks, we are fed up and want to contribute anything that we can.”
Iowa Juneteenth digital festival
The 30th annual Iowa Juneteenth Observance will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The three-day digital festival will focus on black art, history, health, and healing. The event, supported by various corporate sponsors, will be presented in partnership with DSMTV Live for free.
“Juneteenth this year is going to be the biggest Juneteenth that Iowa has ever seen,” MarKaus said. “The irony in it is that because of the COVID [pandemic], our Juneteenth will probably be the most broadcasted Juneteenth in the nation. It’s because we were able to adapt so quickly. We’ve been working on this festival for about three months now.”
In addition to supporting events like the Bandcamp fundraiser and Iowa Juneteenth, MarKaus explained that there are two ways that the everyday Iowan can help the racial disparities within their community.
“For one, have a conversation with a black person,” he said. “I would invite people to come to a local—anything in the community and just talk to someone.”
“The second way I would say, and really the only way that change can happen in my opinion, is through financial gain for black people. They can support a black business. They can find a black business and buy as much as they can from them. We always hear this American analogy, pulling yourself up by the bootstraps and all that, but that’s the way it can actually happen [...] those two things: listening and supporting black growth.”