Juneteenth 2021: 11 Charlotte-area events in honor of “Freedom Day”

A list of free, outdoor events to attend in recognition of Juneteenth.

June 19, or Juneteenth, commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. On that day in 1865, enslaved Africans in Galveston, Texas, learned they were free — 2 ½ years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation legally freed enslaved people across the country. 

Currently, 47 states and the District of Columbia ceremonially recognize Juneteenth — also known as Freedom Day and Black Independence Day — as a state holiday or observance. Though not a national holiday, efforts to recognize Juneteenth at the federal level intensified as nationwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism swelled in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer. [Update: A recent bill passed in the U.S. Senate to make Juneteenth a public holiday.]

Looking to celebrate Juneteenth? Here’s a list of events happening across the Charlotte area. 

Opening Day of Rosa Parks Farmers Market (June 15)
West Complex
3 – 7 p.m.

African drumming, music, entertainment and food samples courtesy of the Mecklenburg County Health Department will usher in the Juneteenth celebration kicking off the sixth season of the Rosa Parks Farmers Market. Visit the outdoor marketplace at its new location, the West Complex in Historic West End. Keep reading

Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas (June 17-20)
Plaza Midwood
Times Vary

One of Charlotte’s longest-running Juneteenth events returns for its 24th year. Multiple events over multiple days will spread across the Plaza Midwood neighborhood, home to House of Africa where the festival originated. 

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Highlights include an interactive drum circle, a freedom march, a fashion show, food, vendors and other entertainment. Keep reading

Juneteenth Jam! (June 18-19)
Multiple locations — The Square, Victoria Yards, NASCAR Hall of Fame Plaza
Times Vary

Intermix art, entertainment and Black history during this immersive, two-day celebration. Get moving with interactive dance sessions led by Reba Bowens and Ginga Capoeira, enjoy a hip-hop performance featuring several Charlotte artists and the “Durag Hall of Fame” art installation. Keep reading.

Juneteenth Rock Hill (June 18-19)
Virtual
6:30 p.m.

The annual event is going virtual for a second year due to Covid. Viewers can still enjoy the Celebration of Freedom lineup, however, which includes local artists, poets and musicians livestreamed through Juneteenth Rock Hill’s Facebook and Instagram pages. Keep reading

Durag Fest (June 19)
Multiple locations — Victoria Yards, NASCAR Hall of Fame, Camp North End
Times Vary

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Organizers say this year’s festival is bigger than ever. Nicknamed the “Met Gala of Durags,” the fourth annual Durag Fest kicks off with its “Deep Wave Day Party” and Black vendor marketplace. Witness live art with the creation of “Durag Hall of Fame” portraits and end the night at “Adult Swim.” Stage performances serve as a backdrop to the street fashion show, displaying durags that flap to the nape of the neck or down to the soles of the shoes. See the waviest of tendrils during the annual wave check. Keep reading

Ebony Fest (June 19)
Rotary Centennial Pavilion
Noon to 5 p.m.

Head out to the third edition of this Juneteenth celebration in downtown Gastonia to celebrate Black culture and support Black businesses. Keep reading.

Queen City Juneteenth Festival (June 19)
Fran’s Kids Boys & Girls Center
Noon to 6 p.m.

Expect culture, crafts, food, vendors and entertainment catering to the whole family. Keep reading.

Black Joy (June 19)
ZEN, a Creative Studio
1 – 5 p.m.

Join fine artists Alicia McDaniel and Faith Rivers as they host an energizing exhibit for the spirit and psyche. Keep reading.

Black in America (June 19)
First Ward Park
2 p.m.

An open discussion centering Black youth, hosted by the NAACP Charlotte-Mecklenburg branch. See more.

Juneteenth Drive-Thru Celebration (June 19)
Beatties Ford Road (near LaSalle Street)
3 – 7 p.m.

Celebrate unity with Charlotte’s Historic West End community along the Beatties Ford corridor. Organizers are also continuing their fight to end state-sanctioned violence, liberate Black people and end White supremacy. See more.

Charlotte Skyline Lights Up for Juneteenth (June 19)
Uptown Charlotte
Sunset

For a second year, local activist Brittany Moore leads efforts to light up uptown skyscrapers green, yellow and red (the colors of the Pan-African flag) in honor of Juneteenth. Participating buildings include Bank of America Tower and Corporate Center, Duke Energy Center, Truist Center and Barings.

BONUS EVENTS

Town of Davidson Juneteenth Celebration (June 19)
Ada Jenkins Center
11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Enjoy keynote reflections, food trucks, entertainment and children’s activities. The first 200 people to check in at the welcome tent will receive a free lunch. Keep reading.

Family Day: Juneteenth! (June 19)
Virtual
Noon

Levine Museum of the New South hosts this virtual celebration that includes music and dancing by BNS Productions, story time and historical insights by Dr. Willie Griffin. Keep reading.

Juneteenth African Dance Experience (June 19)
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture
1 – 2:30 p.m.

Accompanied by the sounds of African drums, take a journey through the history of African dance, particularly how people moved their bodies in celebration and healing. Keep reading.

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