Legendary actor, activist and educator LeVar Burton partnered with Google for special Juneteenth edition of the search engine's famous Google Doodle.
The video doodle, commemorating the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, was designed by artist Loveis Wise and is set to the first verse of the poem "Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson.
"I believe that this Google Doodle, celebrating Juneteenth, is significant for a couple of reasons," Burton told Blavity. "First, this is an effort on Google’s part that was in fact launched months ago, long before the unjustified death of George Floyd and the subsequent moment that has currently gripped our nation. Secondarily, the importance of seizing this moment and educating Americans about the aspects of Black lives of which they may not have knowledge of."
Angelica McKinley, project creative director for the 155th Anniversary of Juneteenth Google Doodle, spoke about the day's history and what the video meant in a video and blog post.
After discussing what the day means to Black people and its historical significance, McKinley explains her own experience with Juneteenth.
"I didn’t grow up celebrating Juneteenth. It wasn’t until I attended Hampton University, a historically Black university in Virginia (and home of Emancipation Oak, the site of the first Southern reading of the Emancipation Proclamation), that I learned about the holiday. I was shocked that schools back home hadn’t taught us about the day and that my family was completely unaware of it. But my initial disappointment has shifted to optimism as I’ve witnessed a resurgence of this day in the American consciousness," she wrote.
As an example, she said that over the last week, searches on Google for the term "Juneteenth meaning" grew by 850 percent and one of the most searched queries was "What is Juneteenth?"
In a Q&A, Wise said her inspiration for the images seen in the video was "the stories and traditions passed down to me from my ancestors" and explained that she wanted people to see "how joy often helped us to transmute our pain into powerful change."
Elijah Jamal, who produced the music for the video, said he listened to big bands, Nina Simone, Beyonce, The Clark Sisters, Kendrick Lamar and old Gospel hymns while using "Lift Every Voice" as his foundation.
"I hope that people can understand the deeper importance of Juneteenth and educate themselves more about Black history. I also hope that they are able to recognize how vital Black Americans have been in building and shaping this country," Wise said.
The blog post includes sketches of the initial drawings and photos of Burton recording the audio.
McKinley wrote that she hopes people across the country will use Juneteenth as a day to remember their elders, share the stories of people who lived in slavery and of those who died for our freedom.
"I hope they celebrate it by creating space for expressions of Black joy and triumph, as well as teaching that June 19, 1865 was just the beginning. I hope they celebrate it by watching today’s Doodle, which aims to reflect how freedom in America is a journey. Even with executive orders, amendments, civil rights bills, and advancements in technology, the struggle to be treated fair and equal continues. And yet, despite all this, Black Americans still remain hopeful. I hope that people can relate to the basic human desire for liberty, equality, and access to opportunities to create a better life for our families and generations that follow," she wrote.
"Juneteenth is an American story about persistence, freedom, and joy no matter the obstacle. May this year's celebration provide an opportunity to honor the progress that's been made and reflect on the important changes that still remain ahead," McKinley added.