Today, the SCG team celebrates the start of Liberation: A Virtual Festival of Arts & Culture Honoring Juneteenth! Every year, Juneteenth invites us to consider how we as individuals, as organizations, and as a sector can observe this holiday in ways that are intentional and rooted in Black joy and Black expression. Moreover, this holiday is a unique opportunity to incorporate arts and culture into our racial equity frameworks, our internal work culture, and our external offerings.
As you prepare to watch our first Liberation performance, we would like to provide you with recommendations on how you can meaningfully engage with these artists and their craft, individually and collectively.
SCG designed Liberation with the intention that participants carve out time after every performance to pause and engage in individual reflection and exploration. Each of our eight Liberation performances is accompanied by two prompts that explore a range of themes — radical joy, rest, ease, expression, liberation, ancestral connection, ritual practices, and more — and are meant to foster self-reflection, community dialogue, and embodied action. As you watch dancer Alli Gray's house-led choreography, we invite you to reflect on what an unapologetic expression of joy would feel like in our bodies. As you listen to Lakhiyia's poetry, we welcome you to explore the sensory and tactile ways we can fill our cups to continue our commitment to racial equity work. As you experience Etsegenet's piece inspired by her Ethiopian roots and traditions on mourning, we ask that you contemplate the practices our ancestors turn to re-center, heal, and process in times of grief, mourning, and anxiety. Additionally, each performance includes an artist interview where you can learn more about the artists' creative process, their unique stories, and what influences their artistic pedagogy and practice. As a whole, the performance, reflection prompts, and interviews hope to help you create the space and time needed to honor Juneteenth through artistic celebration, community building, and personal meditation and action.
While commemorating Juneteenth by giving your staff the day off is an essential first step, we recommend engaging your team in other meaningful ways to honor this holiday collectively. Last year we received some beautiful feedback on how SCG members incorporated this festival into their cultural and racial equity practices and reflections within their organizations. During the festival week, some members carved out time in their all-staff meetings to watch the performances together and then engage in shared contemplation using the prompts provided. Other SCG members shared that they hosted in-person or virtual viewing parties to watch the videos together and discuss topics that often do not get discussed as a staff.
We encourage you to talk to your staff about how they would like to engage with the festival performances and reflection prompts. Perhaps your team could carve out a few minutes every day to watch the videos and engage in self-reflection and dialogue. Depending on the size of your staff, you may find it helpful to utilize smaller breakout rooms where staff can share openly and build trust and community. You can also intentionally use these conversations as an opportunity to center the voices and experiences of staff members of color. These videos can also be an avenue to begin or continue internal conversations about how organizations can incorporate arts and culture in powerful ways to move the work of racial equity forward. Above all, these conversations are a chance to highlight that talking about race doesn't always have to be painful — it can also mean celebrating culture, joy, and expression. We invite you to engage with this festival in whatever manner makes sense for your team and feels most nourishing and generative.
As a Sector
Liberation’s performances and reflection prompts also invite us to critically examine philanthropy’s legacies, our current organizational practices and ultimately, our responsibility to wealth redistribution. Multi-instrumentalist The Growth Eternal's short film weaves in actual archival footage of the exploitation of Black bodies to expand a White Supremacist agenda — including wealth built on exploitation, the mass incarceration that resulted from the "war on drugs," and colonialism. The accompanying prompts urge the philanthropic sector to begin conversations about these topics and how they relate to the sector’s wealth. Additionally, Malik Loves Ya'll's hip-hop composition, which his daughters inspired, invites us to reflect on how we are cultivating and funding young leadership. Joe Brown's piece, an homage to Black women, encourages us to learn about powerful Black women and femmes that our sector can center and support and, more urgently, hire and fund. Philanthropy is tasked to not only view and consume the art but to integrate the lessons into their work and take the first steps towards reparations for our communities.
As a reminder, anyone can attend SCG’s Liberation Festival and register for free! If you haven’t already, we encourage you to invite your colleagues, grantees, friends, and partners to sign up for the festival and, when possible, to watch and discuss the performances together! We look forward to hearing from our membership and community at large on how they engaged with Liberation this year.
Thank you for joining us in commemorating the vibrant and urgent legacy of Juneteenth. May this Festival bring you embodied joy and reflection!