Local entrepreneur Pape Ndiaye established Charlotte’s Juneteenth celebration in 1997. Photo courtesy of Beth Booker

Recognized as a state holiday or day of observance in 45 states, Juneteenth is the commemoration of the June 19, 1865 announcement of the emancipation of enslaved African Americans. It’s a time to celebrate freedom and culture, as well as to reflect on how far we’ve come as a society and progress yet to be made. Entering its 22nd year, Charlotte’s Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas creates space for the local community to do that and much more.

This year’s Juneteenth Festival runs June 13-16 in the heart of Plaza Midwood (at the corner of Thomas and Commonwealth Avenues). It’ll be a multicultural treat for the senses, showcasing food, exquisite art, music and culturally relevant specialty items presented by vendors from around the world.

Pape Ndiaye, creator of the Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas.

Originally developed in 1997 by Pape Ndiaye after he saw the need for Juneteenth recognition in the Charlotte community, the festival strives to serve as a tool for educating the community about the rich culture and powerful heritage of the diaspora. Since its inception, the free festival has evolved into an event that garners over 15,000 attendees, including 250-300 youth, each year.

“We want everyone to come out and celebrate knowledge, unity, and togetherness,” Ndiaye said.

This year’s lineup includes a host of offerings designed to delight the mind, body and spirit of individuals of all ages.

Thursday, June 13, from 9 a.m.- to 5 p.m.: Children ages 4 to 16 are invited to participate in the Cultural Camp at Elizabeth Traditional Elementary School, where they will engage in craft and jewelry making, tie-dyeing and more.

Friday, June 14, from 6 to 10 p.m.: Enjoy the ever-popular Drum Circle, which includes performances by musicians from the local community and across the globe.

Thousands attend the Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas each year. Photo credit: ReelShutter

The weekend boasts a strong roster of festival offerings including a healthcare village for participants to get health screenings and wellness sessions. New to the festival this year, guests can learn more about their heritage thanks to free ancestry and DNA testing. Other weekend activities include an interactive children’s village and an entertainment stage with performances featuring drumming, fashion, African dance, poetry and various genres of music.

The festival will conclude with a church service, hosted by the Park Ministries, and Gospel Explosion, hosted by radio and television personality Tonya Rivens.

“We’re not trying to recreate the past, but rather celebrate the spirit of freedom and togetherness,” Ndiaye said.

For more information, check out the festival website at juneteenthofthecarolinas.com.

Sabrina Clark is a NY native who enjoys the South, but still loves the perfect view of a city skyline. She’s a social worker and child advocate who finds her zen by enjoying all that Charlotte has to offer.