By James Kiefer
The Local Reporter
The sounds of live music, spoken word poetry, art making and the promise of homemade lemonade hung in the air outside the Hargraves Community Center on Sunday afternoon. Tying those activities together is the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Juneteenth Celebration, an event recognizing when thousands of Black people were emancipated from slaveholders in Texas in 1865.
More than 150 years later, the moment isn’t lost on Eugene Farrar. He stands at the edge of a tent, a grin blazen across his face while clapping along to gospel music. While the festivities didn’t start at the Hargrave Center until 2 p.m., Farrar mentions he was at another Juneteenth event earlier that morning.
Something he says is in the spirit of the holiday.
“This is a time for African-Americans to celebrate,” he said, adding that highlighting Black excellence and culture is something that’s long overdue.
On the courtyard next to the music Carrboro resident Darren Smith has just lost a game of cornhole to a friend. Still, he said he’s glad to be celebrating in a familiar fashion, seeing as the last two Juneteenths have been plagued by COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s a different energy this year,” he said.
For Christian Green, this year marked more than celebrating a holiday. He spent part of the Juneteenth celebration playing keyboards with the band Finesse, but said the holiday at large transcended the visibility of being on stage.
“This is a really good celebration,” he said. “Chapel Hill’s Black community can really be an afterthought. It’s not as large as Raleigh or Durham’s (Black population), it’s not that population size.”
Green noted today was a bit of a homecoming both for him and the festival. He said he had known the musicians of Finesse since he was a young boy, so being part of the band was a full-circle experience, along with one way to explore a “rich and vibrant” portion of Chapel Hill’s residency.
A man lays his hand on a sign for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Juneteenth Celebration last Sunday at the Hargraves Community Center.
Photos by James Kiefer