Today (June 19) on REVOLT and VICE’s “The Juneteenth Town Hall & Celebration” special, guests addressed the role of youths in politics, the importance of voting and what Black financial freedom looks like. Host Eboni K. Williams was joined by Stacey Abrams, Tristan Mack Wilds, Dexter Thomas, Rodney Rikai, Charles D. King, Trae Tha Truth and more.
“We’re going to show up and put out for the culture. Listen y’all, there’s a lot of emotions going on with this weekend... this federal holiday being observed, the simultaneous work that’s required to get the reparations, and everything else that we so deserve. Here’s the thing, though. We’re going to rejoice this freedom. But, we can’t ignore this — the many ways in which our freedom is still being obstructed and oppressed by this ‘Merica we live in,” Williams said during her opening remarks. “Black folks cannot and will not be suppressed at the ballot box and what we won’t do is suppress our own vote.”
Williams then spoke with rapper and activist Trae Tha Truth about the importance of voting, and why he believed as a former felon that he could not vote.
“…just within the last two years I found out felons were able to vote and I’m not sure if you know, but I’m probably the only artist they allow to tour through the prisons and do different things. And I’m one of the ones that I feel like if there’s something that I find out and I speak of, I’ll stand on the front line for it and a lot of felons didn’t know that...you know it’s strength in numbers. If we disable people, if we give them the lack of that knowledge, then we can dictate which way this may go,” Truth said.
Williams stated there was a time that hip hop artists like Truth weren’t active in politics and pushing for people to vote. She asked him why does he feel empowered to be a voice in the community?
“For me, it’s fun when you disrupt stuff. For instance, fighting for Breonna Taylor. I moved to Kentucky…I was a real pain for Daniel Cameron. Sometimes you have to do that because it goes to show y’all was comfortable. The people in position are real comfortable. The worst thing you can do is make them uncomfortable,” the activist said.
In celebration of Juneteenth, politician and founder of the Fair Fight Action organization Stacey Abrams had a message for REVOLT’s audience. She said:
“…This day is one to reflect on the strength, perseverance and fortitude of our community. For centuries, Black people have spoken truth to power and fought to push our nation to live up to its highest ideals. Despite the struggle, we have found collective joy and methods of celebration for our story past and our bright future. On this Juneteenth, let’s remember the power we hold individually and collectively. Despite numerous attempts to silence our voices and render us hopeless, we have shown time and time again that will lift our voices and work our hands to fight against injustice. Let that spirit continue to guide us as we fight to create the future we all deserve. Happy Juneteenth.”
Continuing the celebratory vibes, recording artist Tristan “Mack” Wilds performed a spoken word piece titled “The Sun Kissed Me.”
“Who is the colored man? Is he a king? Ruler of empire and gold a conqueror? Holder of God’s knowledge? Was he a slave forced labor of land he didn’t know? Couldn’t own? Given a new history, born of his own tongue? Either way, our ancestors endured centuries of being property, nearly holding onto a dream of us having more than we could fathom. They wanted us to live amongst the stars — they chartered for us. So, why have we settled for the end light of the moon, not basking the sun? But, if you pay attention. If you listen real close, the beginning of every sunrise, you can still hear the spirit of our ancestors sing. Thoughts of a colored man, October 1st, happy Juneteenth y’all.”
Vice News correspondent Dexter Thomas moderated a discussion with co-founder of Freedom March NYC, Nialah Edari, rapper G Herbo and recording artist Kiana Ledé about the importance of voting and the role youths play in politics.
Thomas addressed Ledé, who said voting right now is more important than music. “I really feel that so deeply, music inspires change and to make change, we have to take action. So, music could inform us, music could be a time stamp. But, the action we need to take includes something like voting. I just thought it’s always more important than singing a song,” she said.
Then, Thomas asked Edari how the Black community should keep momentum when dealing with opposition. He answered: “…it’s not a race, it’s a marathon and often times, we’ll feel like we’re taking two steps forward and then one step back. But, just keep pushing and keep working. Something that we do at Freedom March NYC is we may not have as many people, we may not have as many resources, but out organize the enemy and that’s what I believe they were doing in Georgia and the reason why Georgia turned blue…”
Thomas then spoke to G Herbo on the role young people play in politics. “We need people like Trae [Tha Truth], who reach out to the youth and to the younger generation for them to use their influence and their platforms…for the older generation to reach back and use us as a vessel is always the right thing to do,” the rapper added.
Up next, radio personality Angela Yee moderated a panel tackling the issues of generational wealth and financially independence. She spoke with JPMorgan Chase’s Managing Director of Advancing Pathways Byna Elliott and “Earn Your Leisure” podcast hosts Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings.
Yee asked the panel members to detail their personal experiences with the wealth gap and its impacts on the Black community. “Before I became a Youtuber, I was a financial adviser. I got to see that firsthand because, working with clients, you see the disparity between the Black clients that Black financial advisers have and the clients that the white financial advisers have, and the conversations they’re having... You talk about estate planning with white clients and they have $10 million, and the vast majority of Black people are struggling day to day just trying to make ends meet. Working with $100 a month to invest. You see that firsthand and you realize that the reality is that most people don’t even fully understand the wealth gap because they’re just staying in their area,” said Bilal.
Yee then asked Elliott, “How can we collectively move towards modern day freedom?” “Freedom starts mentally. Claiming it. This Christmas, we bought only from Black-owned businesses for all of our Christmas presents and every time I found a great company, I shared it with all of our friends because I wanted all of us to start to walk the talk around wanting to invest back in our communities and letting our dollars circulate,” he said. “If I did have to buy from a majority company, what were their policies, what were their strategies to the Black community and did they make announcement and commit to doing things differently from a racial equity perspective? And if they didn’t, why am I buying services or goods from them?”
Williams returned midway through the special and held a conversation with Rodney Rikai and Thomas on why they believe Juneteenth has become so mainstream.
“I think our government threw us a bone. I think that they were so afraid of all the things we were actually fighting for that they were like, ‘What can we do that’s not going to disrupt what we got going on too crazy, but also kind of pacify the ask of that community?’ And so, they gave us Juneteenth. I appreciate it, I like the extra holiday for sure. But at the end of the day, I don’t think that’s what we were really fighting and asking for,” Rikai said.
Dexter added, “It’s a regional thing, I think, which speaks to the diversity of the Black experience...there really are things people have been asking for some time, a day off to go vote, systematic changes that could be made... Can we say definitely that they’re just throwing a bone? No, but it feels like that.”
“Listen Derek Chauvin would just be getting off of work right now if we weren’t in those streets. I wonder, if people had to go to work, would we have been in the streets? I don’t know…For the first time ever, there was nothing to preoccupy white guilty. They had to look in the mirror. There were no sports. There were no movie theaters. They had to face their own truth and reality,” Rikai said.
Rikai then interviewed founder and CEO of Marco Charles D. King who served as executive producer for the show “Raising Dion” and producer for movies like Judas and the Black Messiah and Fences. He spoke to King about financially empowering Black storytellers and his role with the former movie.
King said: “It was incredible. The big thing behind it was, this is a story about a leader, a revolutionary chairman Fred Hampton who, at 21 years old, was unfortunately assassinated by our government… It was a story that needed to be told. One so that our youth today could know the power of their voice.”
The Juneteenth special concluded with a performance by singer Kirby and rapper D Smoke who performed their song “Superpower.”