Last year, as part of Billboard’s Black History Month celebration, we asked Black artists spanning all genres to compile unique playlists exclusive to Billboard‘s Spotify account. Everyone from Normani and Khalid to DJ Premier and Rapsody shared tracks that represented their love for the culture across the diaspora — from childhood favorites to songs that make them feel free. We continue the celebration in 2020, with R&B girl group June’s Diary sharing their soundtrack today.
R&B quintet June’s Diary — comprised of Ashly Williams, Brienna DeVlugt, Gabrielle “Gabby” Carrerio, Kristal Smith and Shyann Roberts — each explain in their own words the significance of Black History Month.
Black History Month means highlighting our brave ancestral pioneers who have shaped exactly the person I am meant to be in my own skin: remembering why Harriet Tubman risked her life for the freedom of others; recollecting the impact of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, but understanding that he and Malcolm X both simply stood for the betterment of mankind. It is celebrating Rosa Parks refusing to relinquish her power to yet another oppressor.
Black History Month means rejoicing in our resilience, creativity, originality and influence, while upholding the truest form of blackness. It is sharing the uniqueness of every Black person by communicating “We see you,” even though you may be overlooked every day. It is our historical freedom to remind the world, we gon’ be all right!
Black History Month means a lot to me because as I get older and connected to my roots, I understand that Black history is American history. We are the innovators and creators of all things — whether that be music, sports, medicine, architecture, engineering or design. Black history has influenced all things moving. In 2020, I’d like to see more partnerships amongst our culture and less competition; we are stronger together.
To me, Black history is us remembering where we came from and celebrating the opportunities and doors that those before us have opened. It’s about constantly remembering our struggles and embracing our victories!
Black History Month represents the opportunity for us to unite in the remembrance of what we’ve accomplished through the years and show our gratitude. It isn’t just about all the bad times we’ve been through. It’s about leadership, integrity and the determination to continue in spite of.
In 1976, President Gerald Ford urged people to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” By that time, Black History Month had gone from an idea to a locally celebrated week, and then officially a nationally recognized month.
It represents the evolution of Black people in America, kind of like a metaphorical gem that emerged from such oppression and injustice. Each hero honored — Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and more — have paved the way for future generations and fought to make freedom conceivable for their people. To me, it’s a time where we can all admit that Penny from [Broadway musical] Hairspray had the right idea: Black History Month should be celebrated all year.
The ladies also explain some of their favorite tracks on the playlist:
1. Al Green, “Love and Happiness”
“Love and Happiness” is a staple in the black community and it is reminiscent of the popular Ernie Barnes painting, “The Sugar Shack.” In other words, when you hear that voice and those lines, stop what you’re doing, grab someone and groove. — Ashly
2. Nina Simone, “I Put a Spell on You”
Nina was a strong, talented civil rights activist who wasn’t afraid to speak and sing out for what was right. — Gabby
3. Dreamville feat. J. Cole, J.I.D, Bas, EarthGang and Young Nudy, “Down Bad”
We’ve all been down bad and I love the way they flipped the record around. Most down songs are sad, but this one has the energy that makes you want to pick yourself up. — Shyann
4. Bob Marley, “Jamming”
This song is about everyone coming together and having a good time around music. Bob Marley spread so much love and peace through his music, but also raised awareness of his people. I’m of Caribbean descent, so having representation like that was really important. — Brienna
5. Juvenile, “Back That Azz Up”
No matter where you are or what you’re doing, it’s just one of those records where you get [excited] the moment you hear: “Cash money records takin’ over for da 99 and the 2000s!” Every middle school or high school dance was lit when this song came on! It’s just a song for the culture and will always be. — Kristal
6. June’s Diary, “All of Us”
This was one of the first songs we recorded as a group and it is still our favorite. It truly embodies our sound and it’s the epitome of unity. We come alive on the track and it’s always a vibe when we perform it live. — June’s Diary
June’s Diary recently dropped their single “I Ain’t With It,” and are gearing up to release a new project this year. The ladies also also continuing their Black History Month celebration with a Facebook campaign.
Enjoy their BHM playlist below.