Juneteenth celebrations commemorate ‘Black Independence Day’ as communities fight for justice

Americans have been forced to take a long look, along with the world, at the jarring effects of systemic racism and police violence against members of the black community. As the nation’s unresolved issues of racial injustice unfold nationally, the Juneteenth celebrations in the Charlotte area offer a history and culture that represents people who have long fought for equality.

June 19, says juinteenth or Black Independence Day, commemorates the end of slavery in America. On that day in 1865, enslaved Africans in Galveston, Texas were told by Major-General Gordon Granger that the Civil War was over and that they were free – more than two years after the proclamation of emancipation had liberated their counterparts across the country. Although Juneteenth is not a federal holiday, most states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation recognizing it as a public holiday or celebration.

Pape Ndiaye recognized the void during commemorations on June 19 when he first arrived in Charlotte more than two decades ago from Senegal, West Africa. He created the Carolines June 17 Festival, now in its 24th year, to honor the culture and traditions of the African people who arrived on American shores over 400 years ago.

“Our objective is not to recreate the past but to share in a spirit of freedom and conviviality. We use Juneteenth as a tool to educate the public about Africa’s rich culture and the powerful heritage it represents, ”said Ndiaye, president of the Charlotte festival and founder of the African cultural institution House of Africa.

“Knowledge, deeply rooted in culture and heritage, is power. We need to teach children now so that their future will be better. ”

Normally, the four-day event runs Thursday through Sunday and spans several blocks of Charlotte’s Plaza Midwood neighborhood, attracting around 10,000 people. every year. But a slight increase in confirmed cases of Covid-19 in North Carolina has forced organizers to rework their plans for the celebration from June 19 to 21 this year.

To meet social distancing guidelines, the festival will be held in front of House of Africa located at 1215 Thomas Ave. The opening ceremony will begin at 3 p.m. on Friday with presentations on the history of Juneteenth followed by an interactive drum circle in which the audience is invited to bring their drums and play with them.

The surrounding streets will remain open, unlike in previous years, keeping festival performances as drop-in events near House of Africa throughout the weekend. In addition, the annual children’s day camp has been postponed.

Local entrepreneur Pape Ndiaye created Charlotte’s June 17 celebration in 1997. Photo courtesy of Beth Booker

According to Ndiaye, “This is not how we usually do Juneteenth, but we always wanted to have in-person festivities to keep the spirit of Juneteenth alive on Thomas Avenue, where it started 24 years ago. We switched to a walk-in format until the coronavirus was over. Then we will do it as we usually do.

Ndiaye says unity and unity are the key.

“This is what we believe in. Juneteenth is not just an African American holiday, but a piece of American history,” he said.

For more information visit the Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas website and follow the festival’s Facebook page to full program of events.

Across the state border, the town of Rock Hill has recognized Juneteenth since the late 1990s. For the past five years, the organizers of Juneteenth Rock Hill have hosted a two-day field festival. of the old Friendship College and Mt. Baptist Church from the perspective. Activities included a Food Truck Friday and Freedom Fest event, where attendees enjoyed historical presentations and cultural performances.

Nathaniel Frederick, Board Member and Treasurer of Juneteenth Rock Hill Inc., Says The Party Remains Important As People Still Have To Struggle With The History Of Slavery In The United States

“In many ways, this represents a delay in freedom and justice for many African Americans, and we still see it today,” he said. “This is one of the reasons we are seeing protests today – the lack of justice or justice delayed.”

Due to concerns about the spread of Covid-19, the Rock Hill celebration has been reduced to a one-hour virtual event starting at 7 p.m. on June 19. line up features live-streamed acts such as poet and spoken word artist Angelo Geter, hip hop artist and community activist Morris Jermaine Gordon, VisionsGotTalent dance troupe, singer Ke’Andra Davis and more. A portion of the proceeds from the event will go to local organizations, The Manna House and HOPE Rock Hill, to help food insecure communities during the pandemic.

For more information on the Rock Hill event, visit juneteenthrockhill.com.

Other local Juneteenth events

June 18

Charlotte History Museum
Lunch & Learn: Celebration of Juneteenth (virtual)
12 p.m. – 12.45 p.m.
RSVP

June 19

Levine Museum of the New South
June 10th! Family Day Celebration (Virtual)
9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
More information

Charlotte Mecklenburg Library
Engage 2020: luncheon on June 15 (virtual)
12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Register now

BLKMRTCLT
Freedom march
First Ward Park, 301 E. Seventh St.
1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Register now

Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture
Juneteenth Celebration Art Lesson with Alicia McDaniel (virtual)
3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Register now

Celebration behind the wheel of the June Liberation
Beatties Ford Road (near LaSalle Street)
6.30 p.m. – 8 p.m.
More information



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