The Roots Picnic online, America’s birthday celebration goes virtual, and walking for a cure in this week’s ‘Things To Do’

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The Roots perform during the annual Roots Picnic at the Mann Center

The Roots perform during the annual Roots Picnic at the Mann Center in Philadelphia's West Fairmount Park on Saturday, June 1, 2019. (Tim Tai/The Philadelphia Inquirer/AP)

This week, the Delaware Valley holds its collective breath as businesses start to reopen. Although Philadelphia will likely be among the last of the state’s counties to move to a full “green” comeback, the welcome news is restaurants have opened for outside dining with new sanitation and social-distancing protocols. But it will be a while before large-scale gatherings are the norm again and in light of that reality, the Mann Center has regretfully canceled its 2020 calendar. (The Dell Music Center, the city’s other popular outside music venue, and Camden’s BB &T Pavilion might be next, but no confirmation of that yet.) Fortunately, there is a myriad of popular summer festivals that have gone online.

Rooted in service

The Roots crew has been providing good music for the last two decades plus, but the coronavirus forced them to pivot when planning their annual summer event. Their popular Roots Picnic, now in its 13th year, has moved online. The group is partnering with Michelle Obama’s nonpartisan “When We All Vote” campaign to encourage everyone to exercise their civic duty, but with a particular focus on African Americans ages 21-35. Appearances by Tom Hanks, NBA star Chris Paul, Tracee Ellis Ross and performances by Earthgang, H.E.R., SZA, Kirk Franklin, Musiq Soulchild, Snoh Aalegra and quarantine hero deejay D-Nice, among others, are scheduled. The virtual picnic takes place on the Roots’ official YouTube channel on Saturday, June 27 at 8 p.m.

 Happy birthday, America!

Instead of converging on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway this year, Fourth of July revelers can celebrate from the much cooler and less-crowded vantage point of their couch at home. The party’s gone virtual but will still kick off this Sunday and run through to next Saturday. This year’s concert will be performed live from the Met Philadelphia with Tony winner and “Harriet” star Cynthia Erivo and pop/dance artist Jason Derulo, who just released the single “Savage Love.” In the week leading up to the big concert finale, organizers will provide behind-the-scenes footage, virtual museum tours, history lessons, wellness, fitness, interactive arts and crafts, and daily livestreamed concerts. You can watch it all for free, starting on Sunday, June 28 at 8:30 a.m.

Ladies first

The annual Essence Festival, an outgrowth of the popular magazine aimed at Black women, usually draws hundreds of thousands of people to its New Orleans hub during the Fourth of July weekend. But this year, the festival, like so many others, has gone virtual. Headliner Bruno Mars and our own beloved Patti Labelle will perform this year. While we can’t be there in person hanging out on Bourbon street or enjoying the parties, the event still includes all the panels, empowerment sessions, beauty tutorials and concerts that are a part of the fun. Things kick off Thursday, June 25-28 and pick up again over the holiday weekend from July 2-5. You can register at Essence to attend. And yes, it’s free.

The power of pink

For anyone who has experienced the devastation of having someone they love diagnosed with breast cancer, you know that healing is a team effort. The Susan G. Komen Foundation Philadelphia, which raises awareness and funds, and promotes advocacy in search of a cure, will hold their 2020 annual walk online. The virtual walk will also assist breast cancer patients with the additional support they need due to the challenges of the pandemic. The More Than Pink Walk incorporates the 15 counties served by Komen Philadelphia. Even though fundraising began in January, it’s not too late to sign up as you can continue raising money through Sunday. The Walk takes place Sunday, June 28 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and registration is required.

 Green return

Philadelphia’s park system is vast and has provided respite for many during quarantine. Fairmount Park boasts many beautiful spaces, but the Shofuso Japanese Cultural Center, which reopens this week, is among the best of them. The veranda and grounds will be open for socially-distanced dining. The house, although its doors will be open, can only be viewed from the outside for the time being. Capacity limits will also be in place with only 30 people allowed on the grounds at one time. The Shofuso Center is just yards away from Parks on Tap which, instead of moving from venue to venue as it normally does, will be housed permanently at the Horticultural Center across the way.

Calling all boricuas

Taller Puertorriqueño, the arts and cultural center that serves the area’s Puerto Rican and Latinx communities, has been closed due to COVID-19, but is offering some of its rich programming online. This week’s offering is a book talk with the editor and one of the authors of “Boricua en la Luna: An Anthology” — which includes poetry, fiction and art by Puerto Rican authors and artists. Proceeds from the book will benefit Hurricane Maria charities. Editor Elena M. Aponte, poet Teresa Méndez-Quigley, and novelist Ann Dávila Cardinal will participate in the talk via Zoom. It takes place on Saturday, June 27, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and is free with registration. (Registration closes at 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 25.) You can buy the book at a discount here.

Constitution confusion

Given the current news cycle, it seems inevitable that the National Constitution Center would wade in on the debates around race, policing and the limits of presidential power. Their online symposium, in conjunction with The Atlantic, “The Battle for the Constitution” takes place on Tuesday, June 30 at 6:30 p.m. Deborah Pearlstein, Polly Price and Adam White of Cardozo Law will discuss the constitutional issues around the coronavirus on one panel, while former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, Tracey Meares of Yale Law School and others will talk policing, protests and equal protection on a separate panel. The Constitution Center’s CEO and president, Jeffrey Rosen, will moderate. You can register for free here.

Keep checking with “Things To Do” as we continue to provide our picks for entertainment and culture during the industry’s COVID-19 hiatus. Please consult our coronavirus updates to keep up with the latest information regionally.

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