Biden proclaims June as Black Music Month

US President Joseph Biden.
Photo courtesy The White House

President Joe Biden on Friday proclaimed June as Black Music Month, celebrating the Black artists and creatives whose work has “so often been a tidal wave of change — not only by defining the American songbook and culture but also by capturing our greatest hopes for the future and pushing us to march forward together.”

“Our nation has only recognized Black Music Month for 45 years, but its legacy stretches back to our country’s earliest days,” said Biden in a White House proclamation, stating that  “Black music began when enslaved people, who were cruelly prohibited from communicating in their native languages, found ways to express themselves through music.

“Set to the sound of African rhythms, they captured the inhumanity, tragedy, and toll that America’s original sin took on their lives while also telling the stories of their hopes and dreams, faith and spirituality, and love and purpose,” he added.

Ever since, the president said Black performers have carried on that tradition of using art to break down barriers, create sacred spaces for expression and give voice to the promise of America for all Americans.

“They have created and shaped some of our most beloved genres of music — like folk, blues, jazz, hip-hop, country, rock and roll, gospel, spirituals, and R&B,” he said, noting that  Black music has “set the beat of the Civil Rights Movement; expressed the inherent dignity and captured the pride and power of Black communities; and held a mirror to the good, the bad, and the truth of our Nation.”

Biden said Black music is “a staple of American art and a powerhouse of our culture — that is why we must continue to open doors for the next generation of Black artists.”

Since he came into office, Bident said she has had “the honor” of bestowing some of the Nation’s highest awards to some of the most important Black performers and producers, such as Gladys Knight, Berry Gordy, Tania León, Queen Latifah, Dionne Warwick, and more — “uplifting their talent and inspiring others to follow their example.”

After making Juneteenth a National Holiday, Biden recalled that he hosted the first Juneteenth concert on the South Lawn — “where the voices of Jennifer Hudson, Audra McDonald, Ledisi, and other incredible performers reminded us all of the beauty of Black music and Black culture that is American music and American culture.”

Last year, he said Vice President Kamala Harris, the daughter of retired Jamaican economist Donald Harris, hosted the first-ever hip-hop house party at the Vice President’s Residence.

At the same time, Biden said she has helped secure over $100 million to keep concert halls, theater, and other venues afloat during the pandemic.

In his budget, the president said he asked for a total of over $400 million for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities that includes funding for arts programs in underserved communities.

“Black music embodies the best of American art — inspiring us, challenging us and bringing us together,” he said. “This month, may we show gratitude to all the Black artists, whose work speaks to the soul of who we are, shows us the way forward together, and reminds us to lift every voice.

“Now, therefore, I, Joseph R. Biden, Jr., president of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2024 as Black Music Month,” he added, calling on public officials, educators and all the people of the United States to observe this month by “honoring Black musicians and raising awareness and appreciation of Black music.”