Marking both Juneteenth and Black Music Month, June is an especially important time in Black American history and culture—and Levitt concert sites around the country are proud to honor and celebrate Black creativity and joy this summer.

Regarded by many institutions as America’s second Independence Day, Juneteenth (officially Juneteenth National Independence Day) was first commemorated June 19, 1865: the day 250,000 enslaved Black people in Texas received word from Union troops that they were free by executive decree. Today, as Juneteenth is a federal holiday, locales across America honor their Black community members (of past and present) through parades, picnics, rodeos, street fairs, church services, music festivals, and other joyous activities.

Black artistic excellence is the hallmark of Black Music Month. Established in 1979, this commemoration (also known as African American Music Appreciation Month) celebrates the African American music tradition that has reflected the Black American experience over centuries and has inspired the American musical canon. Throughout June, Black Music Month is recognized in many ways, with popular media honoring Black music icons and cultural institutions like museums and libraries curating exhibitions that showcase the history and significance of Black American music. Performing arts venues join in on the festivities as well, presenting concerts featuring both upcoming and established African American musicians across diverse genres.

Enter Levitt concert sites across the country—many of which are observing Juneteenth and Black Music Month in ways relevant to their respective community. The common thread? All free concerts presented on Levitt stages this Juneteenth and Black Music Month will foster joy, belonging, and cultural understanding, ultimately building community through free, live music performed by Black American talents.

Arlington, Texas

Levitt Pavilion Arlington, which presented singer-guitarist Larry Ladale (pictured) for Juneteenth 2022, is set to host their third annual Juneteenth Celebration on June 15.

On Saturday, June 15, Levitt Pavilion Arlington will host its third annual Juneteenth Celebration in honor of its large Black community (representing a quarter of its population) and local heritage as a Texas city located just a few hundred miles north of Juneteenth’s original birthplace of Galveston, Texas.

A cross-sector collaboration co-presented by the Levitt, the Iota Mu Sigma chapter of the historically African American national fraternity Phi Beta Sigma, and Services First Initiatives, Inc., an Arlington nonprofit dedicated to improving young boys’ lives through academic enrichment and mentorship, this Juneteenth jubilee will feature a variety of critically acclaimed Black musical acts, along with food trucks, local vendors, and family-friendly activities on the Levitt lawn.

Kicking off the celebration as opening talent are two of the Dallas/Fort Worth area’s own Black musical acts: jazz fusion act Reggie T. and the Boneheadz and neo-soul funk group Celestial Clockwork. Following their performances will be headliner The Sensational Barnes Brothers—a critically lauded duo comprising brothers Chris and Courtney Barnes, whose gospel soul magic has come to life on numerous Levitt stages across the country and will bring Arlington community members of all ages to their feet for an evening of joyful melodies.

Dayton, Ohio

Levitt Pavilion Dayton’s 2024 Juneteenth: Legacy of Freedom celebration includes a performance by Experience Unlimited.

Those attending Levitt Pavilion Dayton’s free Juneteenth: Legacy of Freedom concert will get a heaping dose of the high-energy musicality that has made Dayton “The Land of Funk,” a title nodding to the western Ohio city’s history for churning out myriad bands (like The Ohio Players, Slave, Zapp, and Lakeside) that made funk—a genre that originated in Black American communities across the country in the1960s—a staple in the American music repertoire.

On Saturday, June 15th, GRAMMY-nominated act Experience Unlimited (known as E.U.), featuring lead singer and bassist Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliott, will electrify Daytonians of all ages and backgrounds with the band’s syncopated rhythms. One of the legendary acts credited with the popularization of go-go (a subgenre of funk that emphasizes unique bass/snare patterns and a call-and-response style that directly engages audience members), E.U. and Sugar Bear are ready to energize Dayton’s diverse community through the power of groove!

Co-presented by Levitt Dayton and local arts organization Home of Urban Creative Arts, the event will also showcase dance, drumming, poetry, sculpture, and beyond for community members to enjoy, along with food trucks and commemorative speeches that foster cross-cultural understanding.

Denver, Colorado

Juneteenth falls on a Wednesday this year, but the weekday hustle and bustle is no match for the special concert Levitt Pavilion Denver has planned for this year’s Second Independence Day. On June 19, the venue invites Denver community members of all backgrounds and ages to celebrate freedom, community, and Black culture on the Levitt lawn, where two brilliant Black American musical acts will bring Denver’s multicultural community together for an evening of soul under the stars.

This year, Levitt Pavilion Denver will feature performances on Juneteenth by the Sensational Barnes Brothers and Denver’s own Wes Watkins.

Along with presenting headlining gospel act the Sensational Barnes Brothers, Levitt Denver will host the Colorado city’s very own Wes Watkins—a seasoned trumpeter and vocalist who also studied at the Denver School of the Arts—bringing his trademark experimental soul as opening talent for the commemorative concert. A formerly unhoused artist on a mission to emphasize the power of individuality regardless of one’s socioeconomic or cultural background, Watkins is inspired by his lived experiences and centers inclusivity in his art practice.

Berea, Kentucky

Levitt AMP Berea Music Series, presented by First Friday Berea, will be collaborating with the Berea Human Rights Commission to deliver the Appalachian community its inaugural Juneteenth program on Sunday, June 23, at the concert series’ longtime location, the verdant Berea City Park Expansion. The program, “Freedom’s Journey: A Juneteenth Musicale” is naturally reflective of Berea’s deep roots in Black liberation and scholarship: for instance, Berea College (founded in 1855 by white abolitionist Rev. John Gregg Fee) was the first racially integrated university in the South; additionally, African American historian and Black History Month founder Carter G. Woodson and prominent Black feminist author bell hooks also called the small Kentucky town home.

A small yet culturally rich community, Berea has always played an important role in African American history—and the town’s first-ever Juneteenth commemoration (which is slated to be an annual event) features a jam-packed lineup: setting the tone for the evening of joyful music will be local church performers, along with the Central Kentucky Brass Quintet, which will be performing pieces by Black composers.

The celebrations will continue to flow with co-headlining performances from acclaimed violinist Ko’ree Jackson (aka KJ Soul), spiritual songstress Sistah LaLa, and Berea College Professor Emerita Kathy Bullock, Ph.D. A theatrical performance will complement the music: Affrilachian Arts Institute Founder Malcolm Davis will present an excerpt of an original solo play by Affrilachian Arts that chronicles the journey of Monk Estill, the first enslaved African to gain freedom in Kentucky. Between performances, community members will have an opportunity to grab bites from Black-owned food trucks and visit booths from local organizations elevating and preserving Berea’s unique Black history.

Fort Pierce, Florida

Since 2023, Fort Pierce, FL, residents of all ages and backgrounds have a chance to gather and groove on the lawn of the Levitt AMP Fort Pierce Music Series—which is celebrating Black Music Month 2024 with a commemorative concert on June 21.

Like other Levitt communities fostering joy and belonging in the region historically known as the “Black Belt” in the American South, Fort Piece is a community rich in Black American creativity. The Florida city has served as a take-off point for several internationally renowned Black artists—from Harlem Renaissance luminary Zora Neale Hurston to the Florida Highwaymen (a collective of Black landscape artists whose idyllic paintings depicted the Sunshine State’s beauty)—and remains home to a large African American community, including a more recent addition of Haitian Americans, of which many members are creatives themselves.

Levitt grantee nonprofit St. Lucie Cultural Alliance is on a mission to incubate the local arts scene and has presented the Levitt AMP Fort Pierce Music Series since 2023. Featuring a lineup of spectacular award-winning local Black musical talent, this summer’s music series will be commemorating Black Music Month with a special Friday, June 21st concert set to come alive at Moore’s Creek Linear Park, where Fort Pierce residents of all ages and walks of life will have the opportunity to celebrate African American artistic excellence while building community through music.

Headlining the Black Music Month experience will be singer Vallery Valentine and her band, Mixed Notes. A longtime Fort Pierce community member and classically trained singer whose artistry is shaped by the southern spirit, Valentine—who captivates audiences through an array of musical styles, including funk, R&B, Motown, jazz and beyond—is ready to beckon her neighbors onto their feet with her expressive vocal ability. Accompanying Valentine will be the smooth instrumentations of supporting band Mixed Notes, also native to Fort Pierce. Warming up audiences before Valentine and Mixed Notes will be soul singer and St. Lucie County community member Will Vaugh.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Double the festivities are unfolding this June in honor of both Juneteenth and Black Music Month at the Levitt AMP Baton Rouge Music Series, presented by Scotland Saturdays.

Since 2023, the free concert series has inspired the predominately African American community to embrace its deep roots in Black music history. The state capital of Louisiana, Baton Rouge is internationally known for its pivotal role in the development of blues music, and so it makes sense that Levitt AMP Baton Rouge’s 2024 season has unfolded as a tribute to Black Music Month. The season, which began in late May and rolls on until June 22, highlights the significance of Black artists and music across genres—from rock and roll to soul, country, hip-hop, and folk—and illuminates a proud Scotlandville community tradition.

In recognition of Black Music Month, Louisiana singer and local community advocate Trina Meade performed a soul-stirring set on the Levitt AMP Baton Rogue Music Series stage this June.

Located along the Mississippi River and part of North Baton Rouge, Scotlandville (home of concert series site Scotlandville Plaza) was once the largest Black village in Louisiana and a major cross-sector hub: small businesses, educational institutions, and big manufacturing companies thrived in the once-standalone village. Despite differences in industry, Scotlandville doers and go-getters connected over a shared desire for a better life—and the very nature of 2024’s Levitt AMP Baton Rouge Music Series intentionally reflects the collective ambition that has shaped the North Baton Rouge community today. The lineup for this year has been as multifaceted as it is musical—many of the artists and entertainers performing on the stage are both music makers and changemakers.

By presenting cultural celebrations relevant to the communities they serve, Levitt music series foster a sense of belonging amongst community members across generations. (Pictured: Levitt AMP Baton Rouge Music Series 2023)

On June 1, Baton Rouge audiences got down to Oklahoma rapper Marcel P. Black who, when not performing himself, is an educator focused on teaching youth the history of hip-hop. On June 8, Baton Rouge’s very own Kayenne Live—equally known for her emotive electronic songs and advocacy as a local community organizer and public affairs expert—headlined the Levitt AMP stage.

And the trend continues with opening talent performing throughout the season, such as Trina Meade, a rock and roll songstress from Atlanta who spearheads art direction at Culture Centers International—an organization on a mission to explore the diverse cultures of the African diaspora. Closing out the month and season, Louisiana’s critically acclaimed Michael Foster Project will bring the bold and full-bodied sounds of brass band harmonies to the Levitt AMP Baton Rouge stage on June 22 for a special Juneteenth celebration that underscores Black history and progress through the joy of free, live music.

The Levitt Foundation is proud to foster joy and celebrate positive social change, one free outdoor concert at a time—read our season overview to see what else the 2024 Levitt network season has in store!