Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas
300 Hawthorne Lane
Charlotte, NC 28204
Admission and parking: Free to the public
Hours: Childrens Camp – Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Drum Circle – Friday, 6 p.m.; Festival – Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas, which attracted 15,000 people in 2011, returns Thursday through Sunday, June 14-17, 2012, in Independence Park. Pape Ndiaye, owner of the House of Africa and founder of Charlotte’s Juneteenth celebration, expects 20,000 to visit this year. Pape’s sojourn from Senegal to Charlotte will be examined later, but the history of Juneteenth is offered as a prelude.
Juneteenth started in Galveston, Texas, when slaves still in bondage finally received the news on June 19, 1865, from Union army Major General Gordon Granger, that they had been freed — on January 1, 1863.
An article on Juneteenth.com describes Major Granger’s opening words in the statement he read that day:
“The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”
There are several stories, but no one really knows why it took two and a half years for the news to travel to Texas. The delay is attributed to diverse explanations: perhaps the messenger originally assigned to bring the news of the Emancipation Proclamation was murdered, or the slaves were not told so they could harvest one more crop of cotton.
News of freedom led many to leave the plantations, looking for long-lost relatives or better opportunities up North. The African American citizens of Galveston made June 19, shortened to “Juneteenth”, a celebration of freedom with family, friends and good food. Since 1865, Juneteenth has grown to become a holiday celebrated nationally.
When he came to America, Pape Ndiaye had been traveling all over the country, where the French speaker learned a lot about American language and culture. Despite having earned a Master’s degree in business administration in France, he could not stand sitting behind a desk. This led to his taking the entrepreneurial route as a vendor of jewelry, crafts and clothing imported from his home of Senegal, West Africa. Pape moved to Charlotte from New York in 1997 after having stopped through on the way to and from vending at the Olympics, held in Atlanta in 1996. His spontaneous successful sales experience at a local flea market led him to conclude that Charlotte would be his future home.
Ndiaye observed Juneteenth being celebrated in major cities such as New York and Los Angeles, so he began the Juneteenth Festival in June, 1998 as a one-day street festival in front of his store, House of Africa, in the Plaza-Midwood area. Eventually, the festival’s growth necessitated a move in 2006 to Independence Park for four days of activities. Music, dance and food from around the African Diaspora are popular features, but this festival offers more.
There is an essay competition for a $10,000 scholarship to St. Augustine’s College in memory of former festival chairwoman, the late Marilyn Turner. Essay topics are, “The Essence of a Father” and “What Juneteenth Means to Me.” The winner will be announced during the festival.
A Cultural Camp for children will open on Thursday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. in the gym at Elizabeth Traditional Elementary School, near Independence Park. Mask making, a tie-dye class (bring your own white t-shirt), beading, storytelling and songs will engage children ages three and older.
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Friday’s Drum Circle invites percussionists from around the world to confer rhythmically while providing beats for dancers to display their moves, including some on stilts. Sunday’s events include a Gospel fest, and performances by popular local groups Voices of Hope Recovery Choir and A Sign of The Times. Ndiaye indicated when interviewed in April that he is planning to get a national act, but this had not yet been confirmed by the press.
All aspects of life and enjoyment are celebrated at the Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas at several “villages” at Independence Park. An Education Village presents lectures by prominent educators and historians, with book signings and discussions on Black History. Free health screenings at the Healthcare Village, and a workout with exercise maven Nettie Reeves, emphasizes the importance of African Americans taking good care of themselves. The Children’s Village has a performance stage, and lots of stories, crafts and other activities tailored specifically toward the little ones.
The Marketplace will feature vendors who have traveled from around the United States and have supported this festival since the very beginning. Imported art, jewelry, fabric, clothing, fragrances and beauty supplies are some of the offerings.
Come out and learn about United Healthcare and what they can do for you at the JUNETEENTH FESTIVAL, JUNE FOURTEENTH through JUNE SEVENTEENTH, go to JUNETEENTHofthecarolinas.com for more information!