Juneteenth Celebrations on Tap in Chapel Hill and Carrboro


by Michelle Cassell


The Local Reporter

Chapel Hill and Carrboro will be celebrating Juneteenth — the day commemorating the end of slavery in the United States — on Sunday, June 19, with festivities kicking off at the Hargraves Center [located at 216 N. Roberson St. in Chapel Hill], at 2 p.m. The celebration is slated to run until 6 p.m.

Chapel Hill festivalgoers can expect to see live performances by local Black musicians, poets, and dancers. In addition, local Black-owned small businesses, nonprofit expos, kids activities, and food trucks will be featured at the event.

On June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill into law designating Juneteenth National Independence Day as a federal holiday to be celebrated every June 19.

“We are so pleased to join with Carrboro in celebrating Juneteenth again this year,” said Mayor Pam Hemminger. “The holiday continues to grow locally since it was made an official holiday on June 19, 2020. The joint event offers all of us an opportunity to honor the Black leaders in our community — past and present. It also gives us a chance to reflect on and constantly increase the efforts of making Chapel Hill a truly inclusive, equitable, and supportive place for everyone.”

Carrboro Mayor Damon Seils pointed out that not only is Juneteenth a paid holiday for the town employees, but an opportunity for the community to come together in celebration.

“I encourage all residents to learn more about the history of Juneteenth and attend the event,” Seils said.

UNC Provost and Chief Academic Officer Chris Clemens and Leah Cox, UNC’s Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion, acknowledged Juneteenth by recently announcing a paid personal observance leave to all leave-earning staff and faculty.

Going forward, the university will permanently incorporate the celebration of Juneteenth into the academic calendar, according to Clemens and Cox.

“While this holiday has roots in the past, today it has come to mean more about our present and future,” Clemens said. “On this Juneteenth, we encourage you to take a thoughtful pause to reflect on our history and honor the contributions of the many enslaved Black people who built our institution.”

“We can also enjoy a celebratory moment in the present to reflect on how our Black students, faculty, staff, and alumni continue creating, fostering, and advancing the Carolina we’re proud to be a part of,” Clemens continued. “If you are near campus, we hope you’ll consider joining the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Community’s Juneteenth celebration on Sunday afternoon.”

Monday, June 20, is a paid holiday for Orange County and Chatham County employees to commemorate Juneteenth. On June 6, 2022, Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order designating an additional paid holiday for state employees in the agencies that report to him through his cabinet. According to the order, state employees will be able to take off Juneteenth or another day of their choosing that recognizes  “cultural, religious or personal significance.”

Kendall Lytle, President of the NAACP Chapel Hill—Carrboro Youth Council, is serving as one of the organizers of the Chapel Hill’s observance of Juneteenth.

“We are very excited to get such wonderful support from the community by collaborating with the two towns for the second time,” Lytle said. 

Last year, more than 1,500 people attended Juneteenth celebrations and this year’s event is expected to attract even more interest because of expanded live performances, vendors, and food trucks, Lytle said.

“I can’t wait to see how much bigger the event has gotten since last year,” Lytle added.

Juneteenth clothing on display at Carrboro town commons during last year’s celebration.
Photo credit: Town of Carrboro.

Attendees are encouraged to use mass transportation or walk from the nearby parking garages. The lineup of live performances at the Hargraves Center include:

  • Finesse — a group performing in the Triangle for over twenty years, “touching hearts and souls” with their music.
  • Gospel Winds from Chapel Hill will sing an array of traditional gospel songs.
  • Kevin Rowdy, a national recording artist, writer, actor, and educator based in the Triangle area, will entertain festivalgoers. Rowdy has been featured on BET and PBS Kids and has given a TED talk on the importance of Hip-Hop Culture. He is a hip-hop ambassador through the U.S. Department of State and the Next Level Hip-Hop Program.
  • Zion Project, a praise team at the Faith Tabernacle Oasis of Love Church in Chapel Hill, will also entertain audiences at the Juneteenth celebration. Zion Project offers a unique blend of praise music in a Caribbean Soul style.
  • CJ Suitt, the first poet laureate of the Town of Chapel Hill, will perform readings of his work.
  • Fred Joiner, current poet laureate for the Town of Carrboro, will also perform poetry readings during Sunday’s festivities.
  • Bouncing Bull Dogs, a local jump rope team composed of 160 boys and girls, will perform acrobatics and innovative jumping with flips using various ropes.

Festivalgoers are encouraged to patronize these local Black-owned businesses including:

  • No Ordinary Designs
  • Miss Pen’s Fascinators
  • Blue Embellishments
  • Cake Mommy
  • Ada’s Painted Figurines
  • Artbytrindylynae
  • Everything Eunique
  • Mastic’s Crystals and More
  • Watson Family Literacy
  • Queens Custom Printz N Design LLC
  • KC Travel Agency
  • Greenhouse Publishing Agency
  • Mega Ambience Creation LLC

Exhibits from nonprofits that made the Juneteenth celebration possible include:

  • Marian Cheek Jackson Center
  • Hannah Ruth Foundation
  • Rogers-Eubanks Neighborhood Association
  • Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools
  • Town of Chapel Hill Planning Dept. & Shaping Our Future Project Team
  • Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP Youth Council

Food and drink vendors at Sunday’s celebration will include:

  • McCam’s Seafood
  • Mike’s Vegan Food Truck
  • Monique’s Ice Cream Truck
  • Rese’s Caribbean Kitchen
  • RENA Coke Truck
  • Vegan Ice Cream Man

In addition, there will also be an entire area devoted to kid’s art, books, crafts, face painting, and more known as the Kid’s Zone at the Juneteenth celebration.               

Pittsboro Juneteenth celebrations on tap

The Chatham County Fairgrounds in Pittsboro — located at191 Fairgrounds Road — will serve as the site of what is expected to be an essential collective Chatham County event entitled, “Celebrating Freedom and Black Excellence,” from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 19.

The historical Chatham County Fairgrounds is believed to be one of the oldest African-American Fairgrounds in North Carolina. Chatham Organizing for Racial Equity, or CORE — a community-led non-profit organization — will host the event.

“This is our fifth year, and this will be the biggest event we’ve had yet,
 said Michelle Wright, Director of Reconciliation & Juneteenth Coordinator at CORE. “Our focus is to bring forth celebration and joy because we have enough trauma in this world.”

Wright said the Chatham County celebration will be inclusive in nature.

“We must be mindful that we have so much to celebrate and highlight our community’s excellence,” Wright said. “We would steal the joy that Black and brown people would have if we only focused on races and oppression. At CORE, we work across racial lines. While this is a black event, we have many allies who are excited to support us.”

A high-stepping drumline from Greensboro’s Ben L. Smith High School — including the school’s dancers and step team — will kick off the festivities at the Chatham County Fairgrounds on Sunday afternoon.

The keynote speaker will be UNC guest lecturer, poet, artist, educator, and organizer Dasan Ahanu. New Band on the Block will also play live music during Sunday’s festivities. A Black Business expo, food trucks, storytelling, a kids’ tent, and Chatham Heritage Walk will also be featured at Sunday’s celebration in Pittsboro.

For more information about Chatham County celebrations of Juneteenth, visit: https://corenc.org.

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