“Finally June 16 is celebrated”: the local community commemorates the holiday

The communities of Chapel Hill and Carrboro celebrated June 19 at the Hargraves Community Center on Sunday afternoon.

Tents and food trucks dotted the baseball diamond and outdoor basketball court. Children spray-painted wood panels, popped giant bubbles blown by performers in party outfits and played on the indoor basketball court as part of a basketball skills clinic.

Black artists performed on a stage set up on the baseball field and their music could be heard throughout the day.

Community organizer and performance poet CJ Suitt poses for a portrait at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro June 19 Celebration at the Hargraves Community Center on Sunday, June 19, 2022.

Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. Chapel Hill and Carboro proclaimed Juneteenth commemoration on June 19, 2020. It became a federal holiday on June 17, 2021.

Governor Roy Cooper recently proclaimed June 19 as Juneteenth in North Carolina on Friday.

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, NAACP Youth Council, Marion Cheek Jackson Center for Saving and Making History, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School Office of Equity and Engagement, Rogers-Eubanks Neighborhood Association, and the cities of Chapel Hill and Carrboro planned the event.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP Youth Council President Kendall Lytle said planning for the event began between February and March of this year.

She said the June 19 celebration was “a long time coming” and she was thrilled the event was finally happening.

“One of the big things that we talk about specifically in the Youth Council is amplifying black voices and making sure that we, as a black community, are seen and our excellence is known,” a- she declared.

Chapel Hill parks and recreation specialist Deaver Smith said African Americans were celebrating June 19 long before it was officially recognized as a national holiday. He said the holiday represents the rich history of the day African Americans were freed from slavery and celebrates their place in the country as a whole.

“Black history is rooted in a lot of pain, a lot of suffering, but it’s also important to realize that it’s rooted in a lot of perseverance and joy,” he said. “Today is a great example of the joy we expressed when we achieved freedom and how since then we have continued to move forward and carve out a permanent place for ourselves in this country.”

He added that the Hargraves Community Center runs African American-centric activities and programs through Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation that highlight its importance in the community.

“One thing I want attendees to take away from this event is that Hargraves is here, he will always be here, and he does a great job of representing the African-American community in Chapel Hill,” Deaver said.

Ke’Air from Mike’s Vegan Cookout provides patrons with services during the Chapel Hill-Carrboro June 19 Celebration at the Hargraves Community Center on Sunday, June 19, 2022.

In addition to outdoor activities, a small trade fair was held inside the community center where local black-owned businesses sold everything from handmade clothing and accessories to homemade desserts.

Cake Mommy LLC owner Tiffany Palmer-Lytle, Kendall Lytle’s mother and a self-proclaimed “freestyle dessert artist,” sold desserts such as honey cake, cupcakes emblazoned with June 19 symbols, and her famous ” banana pudding not your girl” at his table at the fair.

Palmer-Lytle said she was happy to be at the event and see the response from the community.

“We are happy that June 16 is finally celebrated, everyone is out,” she said. “It’s great to see the community celebrating and sharing together.”

Boring store owner Lorina Morton was also a sales assistant at the event. Morton said that as a black-owned business, finding people who genuinely want it to succeed and try to do whatever they can to offer support is priceless.

She said she experiences a huge sales rush around Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month. Although she wants people to support her, she said it’s hard to be successful without year-round support.

“I can’t thrive as a business owner with one sales increase and then a steady straight line for months and months,” she said. “It’s crazy to see when tragedy happens as the reason people support your business. It’s something that’s really, really hard to deal with: when our community members are hurt and the first response from people is throwing money at us.”

Morton said supporting minority-owned businesses needs to be integrated into people’s daily shopping habits throughout the year.

She added that she felt heartened by the support of attendees, who took business cards or followed her on social media even though they couldn’t afford to buy anything.

“It’s just really wild because Juneteenth wasn’t really something you heard of, or at least I even heard of growing up,” she said. “It’s nice to see a community event like this advertised and shown and people showing up; not only our black community but other community members as well. I think it’s important that this kind of solidarity is shown, and I think that’s super cool.”

Children’s activities were featured at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro June 19 Celebration at the Hargraves Community Center on Sunday, June 19, 2022.

@sarahchxi

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