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How this local arts director reclaims space through Black performance

Kunya Rowley is directing the third annual Juneteenth Experience at the Miami Beach Bandshell on June 19.
Osiris Ramirez
Kunya Rowley is directing the third annual Juneteenth Experience at the Miami Beach Bandshell on June 19.

It wasn’t until Kunya Rowley was in high school that he started to ask himself: Why are there so few Black opera singers?

Kunya grew up in South Florida loving to sing opera. He went to school for it. But as he got further along in his career, he found fewer Black performers who focused on the art form.

He wanted to change that. Kunya won a Knight Arts Challenge grant to help start his organization called Hued Songs. Its goal is to amplify Black culture through performance.

Kunya is directing and producing the third annual Juneteenth Experience, taking place on June 19 at the Miami Beach Bandshell. The goal is to explore and celebrate Black freedom and history — with Black artists leading the way.

The location of the event is significant. Miami Beach was built by Black laborers. But for a long time, they were banned from owning property there.

On the May 31 episode of Sundial, Kunya Rowley joined us to talk about The Juneteenth Experience and his hopes for the event to play a role in reclaiming that space.

On Sundial's previous episode, Alex Segura joined us to talk about his new book for Marvel, and why he connects with the medium of comic books so much.

Listen to Sundial Monday through Thursday on WLRN, 91.3 FM, live at 1 p.m., rebroadcast at 8 p.m. Missed a show? Find every episode of Sundial on your favorite podcast app, such as Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify.

Carlos Frías is a bilingual writer, a journalist of more than 25 years and the author of an award-winning memoir published by Simon & Schuster.
Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.
Elisa Baena is a former associate producer for Sundial.
Helen Acevedo, a freelance producer, is a grad student at Florida International University studying Spanish-language journalism, a bilingual program focused on telling the stories of diverse communities.