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Juneteenth celebrations continue this weekend

Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 10:39 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Hundreds of people are sharing the rich history of Juneteenth through festivals, parades, and other celebrations.

June 19, 1865, was the day Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas notifying the enslaved people there that they were free. That message came over two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.

The 13th amendment officially abolished slavery in the United States. Section 1 explains, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

It was passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865.

Marching bands sounded through the streets Saturday morning as part of the Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas “Freedom March.”

“Well, we understand what Juneteenth means. Some people don’t understand but understand the celebration of freedom, we’re still asking to be more free than we are now,” said Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden.

Juneteenth celebrations continue this weekend
Juneteenth celebrations continue this weekend(WBTV)

Others showed their support for Black-owned businesses at the Queen City Juneteenth Festival.

Q. Nicole McNair-Vanderhorst, with WH Farms, says their efforts continue as they pour back into the land that enslaved people once tirelessly worked on.

“We’ve given them an opportunity to really restore economics on their actual farms and again these farms have been owned by freed slaves. Our actual farm the land was cleared by free slaves and indigenous people,” McNair-Vanderhorst said.

Over in Gastonia, organizers with Ebony Fest say they want people to embrace the holiday and enjoy themselves but more importantly, take the time to learn the history.

“This is the first year not only in the city, the county but also on a national level Juneteenth is even being recognized as an official holiday. So I want to see it become a staple not only in Black celebrations but also just Americans in general. Black history is American History,” said Ro’Shaun McClendon with Ebony Fest.

For the tenth year in a row, the city of Belmont held its annual Juneteenth Celebration with a parade and virtual events.

“We are just glad that everyone else is now coming into the knowledge and awareness of this important date in African American history and U.S. history and we’re proud to be a part of helping people celebrate,” said Delta Sanders, the co-founder of Elements of Empowerment, Inc.

The 24th annual Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas started Friday in Plaza Midwood. Dozens of people came out to hear the drum circle, support vendors, and learn about the history behind the day of celebrations.

Organizers say they want people to understand Juneteenth is more than cookouts, parades, and dancing - they say it’s about honoring their ancestors.

“When they learned that they were free, they put down their tools and broke out into song and dance and festivities. Which is what we are emulating today, just honoring our ancestors,” said Shirley Fulton, the chairperson of the Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas.

The Oddman family was attending the festival on Friday.

Ahron Oddman, who is Black, had learned about the holiday since he was a child.

“My family has been celebrating this since we were 10,11,12,13 so as kids we were like ‘what is this?’ we get a picnic in June,” Oddman said. “Obviously with everything that happened last year and the conversations going on in the country we think it is important to educate our kids on it.”

His wife Devan, who is white, said she did not learn about it when she was younger but was taking the time to educate herself and their children.

“It is a more recent celebration for me but we definitely, as the kids are getting older we’re talking a lot about history,” Devan said.

Others like Ivan Williams say the federal recognition of Juneteenth is a step in the right direction but he says there’s more work to be done.

“Whether it’s the court system or it’s policing, education, I think there are a lot of people on the front lines working towards making things better so I’m optimistic about our future,” Williams said.

Makenzie Reeves also attended the festival on Friday. She said it was her first time coming and she wanted to learn more about the holiday while supporting the Black community.

“I’m just here to be educated and to really enjoy and be a part of the community,” Reeves said.

The Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas continued this weekend with the following events:

There was a Freedom March, which started at the Grady Cole Center and ended at the store House of Africa located at 1215 Thomas Ave.

There was also music, art, fashion, food, and more.

The final celebration will be on Sunday, June 20 from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Organizers say they will be celebrating the past, present, and future.

Others events:

Charlotte

  • Juneteenth Youth Experience, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., 1817 Central Ave., Charlotte

Gaston County

  • Ebony Fest Juneteenth Festival, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., Rotary Pavilion, 107 N. South St., Gastonia
  • 10th annual Belmont Juneteenth Celebration, virtual events can be found here

Burke County

  • Juneteenth Celebration, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., City of Morganton Municipal Auditorium, 401 S. College Street, Morganton

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