Biden, Harris to address Black America in virtual Black History Month Celebration

EXCLUSIVE: The president and vice president will welcome singer Anthony Hamilton and the St. Augustine Choir to commemorate Black heritage

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks as Vice President Kamala Harris looks on during an event at the State Dining Room of the White House January 21, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, singer-songwriter Anthony Hamilton and the St. Augustine Choir are the headliners for this year’s White House Black History Month Celebration. 

Usually, the annual event takes place on the state floor of the White House and is packed with attendees in the East Room where speeches are given with live entertainment. 

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U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris hold a press conference. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

In contrast to previous Black History Month celebrations at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., this year’s event will see a huge difference for the event — the difference being COVID-19. The virtual event will kick off at 8 p.m. on White House.gov and other virtual platforms. Despite the pandemic preventing the usual gathering, the virtual component will allow far more Americans to watch than any typical number of attendees who would’ve attended in person.

Over the decades, U.S. presidents of both political parties have held official celebrations for Black History Month, where celebrities, Black leaders and those concerned with and for the community gather for music, speeches and fellowship.

This year, the Biden/Harris administration will use the backdrop of the Black History Month event Friday to further push their agenda for Black America. The speeches will be like never before as Black America experiences a moment of colliding crises.  

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Anthony Hamiton, who tells theGrio he is not political, will perform two songs during his set, including his latest single, “Mercy.”  

Anthony Hamilton performs onstage during Nipsey Hussle’s Celebration of Life at STAPLES Center on April 11, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images For All Money In Records and Atlantic Records)

“Well, Mercy was a song that we put out after George Floyd and all this stuff just writing. And I felt like the song was speaking to the men who were feeling heavy and feeling overwhelmed by all the events and just feeling let down by society,” says Hamilton. “I wanted to let him know … it’s OK to take a little moment, to take it all in and to, you know, just say sometimes you just need a little mercy, a little minute to regroup and need to be loved and appreciated.”

Sticking to the social justice theme, Hamilton also tapped activist Tamika Mallory to be part of the music video for “Mercy.”

“I know they try to separate us, keep our families broken. But this is a prime example of a Black woman who is there instilling in her man all that he needs and lifting him up and without emasculating him,” Hamilton says of Mallory’s role in the music visual.

The song, he says, is to “let people know we’ve been through some things [and] we’re going to be alright.”

Yet, when it comes to this moment in history, Hamilton is particularly focused on issues of policing, education, access to capital and bridging the wealth and income divides in the Black community. The North Carolina native says he would also like to see more Blacks in the technology space, where employment numbers in that industry are abysmally low.

But Anthony Hamilton won’t be the only one singing tunes during the Biden/Harris Black History Month event. The St. Augustine Choir will sing the Negro National Anthem, and given COVID-19 guidelines, choir members will sing in different rooms of the White House, which will allow viewers to see their house, The Peoples House.

White House sources tell theGrio that President Biden will open the event with a speech. First Lady Jill Biden will introduce the St. Augustine choir. The choral group is from the church where President Biden attended his Inauguration Day service.

U.S. President Joe Biden (L) and first lady Dr. Jill Biden listen to the national anthem as they watch the virtual presidential inaugural prayer service in the State Dining Room of the White House January 21, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Anthony Hamilton will be introduced by Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff for his selections and Vice President Harris will close out the event.

Some of the speeches will continue with some of the administration’s same policy themes of equity and encouraging Americans who are able to get vaccinated.

When it comes to the issue of vaccinations, Hamilton likes the administration’s push on mask-wearing and education on COVID-19. The singer, who just turned 50 last month, recently survived an ugly bout with COVID-19. 

“Wear your mask. And until we don’t have to, it’s not a punishment,” Hamilton tells theGrio.

When it comes to getting vaccinated, he says educating yourself is key. Friday’s Black History Month event is Hamilton’s first performance using his “full voice” since recovering from the virus. He says he is listening to the conversations about vaccinations but history still lingers following controversial medical studies that targeted the Black community.

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