Juneteenth: Music and the African American community

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Juneteenth is a new holiday to a lot of people but not for African Americans, as it represents the day the last slaves learn they were free on June 19, 1865, in Galveston, Texas.

A century and a half later blacks across the United States continue to celebrate the day which is now a federal holiday.

One of the significant things if not the most important element that brings the African American community together is music. We spoke to a Duluth music artist Terrell Grier (@Casino_Cuzo) on the significances of music to African Americans.

“I feel like music has always been the key to bringing people together and it unite us all as a nation.”

Terrel says he appreciate the fact that the American government finally recognized the day, after President Biden made it a federal holiday in 2021. But says a lot still needs to be done.

“I feel like Juneteenth is a very powerful statement that’s trying to be made or that has been made. But collectively, I feel like every day should be a free day for everyone, most especially for African Americans. Because we still face racial profiling from the police department, we get profiled because of the way that we look by our fellow Americans, in part because the news is constantly portraying African Americans as the devil. Referring to us as the demons that people need to stay away from. But in actuality, without us, the whole world wouldn’t be where it is today. The world was built off the back of African Americans for over three hundred years and it is still going on today.”

He also spoke about how music helped him survive the system.

“I started doing music when I was 16 and music was an escape for me from reality. I can dream about a better future or a better way of living through my music. So, I use my music as an escape not just for me but for others as well. I like to be that voice for people that don’t know what to say or when to say it.”

Terrell added that the only way forward is through better collaboration and the music producers we spoke to in the Twin-Port area agreed. Victor Martinez is the CEO and founder of Zenith City Media, a Duluth based production studio. He says his organization is very passionate about helping local artists most especially African Americans.

“With the artist that I work with, I try to help them protect their music, I help them understand the music industry, most especially when it comes to signing contracts. I also try to help them with starting up business because I know a lot of them are trying to better themselves with their music.”

Another producer we spoke to is DJ Adub. Based in Superior, Adub says he is always willing to help support local artists.

“I think it’s all about creating positive relationships with businesses, with promoters and with the community, including not just rappers and hip-hop artists but everyone. It’s important for us as a people to extend our hands to reach across the aisle and have a handshake with someone who doesn’t look like us.”.

On the current climate of black music in Duluth, Terrell says for the past 20 years he has been living in Duluth the community as been very welcoming and supportive. Saying, even though he travels to other cities across the country to perform, he still sees Duluth as his home.

In conclusion he said music continues to play a very significant role in the day-to-day survival of black folks that have been disenfranchised over the years as it helps them rejuvenate and maintain stability mentally.

“Music has definitely given me an opportunity not just to escape internally, but to also escape externally as well, because it would eventually allow me to free the invisible shackles that’s been placed on my hands and that of my family for generations.”

This is the first year Minnesota is recognizing Juneteenth as a state holiday and Governor Walz tweeted.

“Juneteenth marks our country’s second Independence Day and recognizes our country’s full history. Today – for the first time as an official state holiday in Minnesota – we celebrate freedom, honor Black Americans and their history, and recommit to civil rights for all.”