Celebrate Juneteenth in Durham
Whether you've always embraced Juneteenth or are new to celebrating, here are five ways to celebrate in Durham this year.
Nine hundred – that’s the number of days between Jan 1, 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, declaring all enslaved Black people free, and June 19, 1865, when 250,000 enslaved Black people in Texas finally heard the news.
It was a moment that generations of enslaved Black people had only dreamed and whispered about in secret. Naturally, they reacted to the delayed news with weeping, singing, praying, and dancing – all the things that accompany liberation. It was the first June 19 celebration.
Juneteenth, a merge of June and 19, is an annual day commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. While it has been celebrated by many African Americans since the late 1800s, it’s a day for all Americans to learn, reflect, and grow from this nation’s history. In 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill to set aside June 19 as a federal holiday. This year, we encourage you to celebrate Juneteenth in Durham by attending events, learning more about the day, taking some time to reflect, and supporting Black-owned businesses.
1. Attend a local Juneteenth Event.
An important part of the celebration is about community and bringing people together. Gather friends and family and see what events are happening in and around your city.
Head to the Carolina Theatre on June 15 from 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. for Exceptional Measures, a free event that explores the connection of music and dance to Juneteenth. Enjoy music by Grammy-nominated artist Rissi Palmer, poetry from nationally-competing spoken word artist Dasan Ahanu, and performances by the acclaimed African American Dance Ensemble. The event is free, but participants must register in advance.
At 6:30 p.m., doors open for a self-guided Afrofuturism-themed digital art show. All of the featured artists have ties with the local community. At 7:30 m., local civic and community leaders like artists, and visionaries discuss historical and current issues facing the local Black community. After the panel discussion, experience multiple after-dark celebrations on different indoor stages. The evening includes food trucks, drinks, and plenty of socializing, reflection, and future thought.
Mark your calendars for June 18 and 19, a two-day celebration with national recording artists, local performers, food and merch, a health fair, a kids’ zone, a fashion show, and more – hosted by Spectacular Magazine. The celebration kicks off at Golden Belt Campus on Saturday with a drum and dance processional, followed by presentations on the origin and significance of Juneteenth. Things heat up in downtown Durham on Sunday with a barbecue cook-off and more fun and games. The cook-off winner will represent North Carolina in the national Juneteenth cookoff in Galveston, Texas later this year.
2. Support a Black-owned Business.
In Durham, we support Black-owned businesses all year long. As we celebrate Juneteenth, there's no better time to highlight some of our incredible Black-owned restaurants, businesses, and startups.
The Hayti Heritage Center on Fayetteville St. stands to preserve and advance the heritage and culture of historic Hayti & the African American experience. Along Fayetteville St., there are numerous Black-owned businesses. Visit restaurants like Nzinga's Kitchen, Chicken Hut, and Let's Eat Soul Food. Stop by the Durham African Caribbean Market for international food and World of Flowers for a wide selection of beautiful plants for your home!
Black Wall Street, an area that became a moniker for Durham's West Parrish Street, was a hub for Black-owned businesses during the early 1900s. Today, Durhamites of color are reclaiming history with present-day business ventures. Nicole Oxendine is reviving the Black entrepreneurial spirit of Black Wall Street through movement and dance at Empower Dance Studio. Just steps away, Kompleks Creative, a self-proclaimed 'dope' creative agency has proudly bolstered the brands of local partners. Across CCB plaza, Zen Succulent has sprung to life with beautiful plants and flowers. Dorian Bolden opened Beyù Caffè, a place rooted in a love for coffee, community, and bringing people together. These are just a few of the local Black-owned businesses you can support.
3. Learn about Juneteenth as a Family.
For those wanting to celebrate Juneteenth for the first time, it's important that we learn how to celebrate in a way that truly honors its history.
Pick up some books that have been written specifically about Juneteenth or some books by Black authors about Black experiences. Rofhiwa Book Café, a local café that focuses on Black culture and literature, has a wide selection of educational books. With physical pop-ups in The Durham Hotel and Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Liberation Station Bookstore believes in making representation accessible and amplifying Black voices. If you can’t get your hands on these books before June 19, tune in to some read-a-longs or watch some videos online.
Watch a show, movie, or documentary about Black history or the experience of Black people in America. In the new Netflix docuseries High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America, food writer Stephen Satterfield traces the origins of African American cuisine from Africa to Texas. Gabrielle Eitienne from Tall Grass Food Box, a CSA that supports and encourages the sustainability of Black Farmers serving people in Durham, appears in the series.
4. Take some time to reflect.
While Juneteenth is certainly a cause for celebration, it should also lead to a time of reflection. Find a peaceful spot at The Eno River or check out the Durham Parks & Recreation website for a comprehensive list of local parks, and then take some time to pause and reflect on what we can do individually and collectively to dismantle systemic racism in America.
5. Visit historic sites to learn more about Black History.
The civil rights movement gained significant traction in Durham. Walk Black Wall Street. Explore the Hayti Heritage Center. See the historic Woolworth lunch counter where sit-ins occurred. Become acquainted with tributes to integration and progress at the Carolina Theatre and murals like the Durham Civil Rights mural throughout the community.
Almost a thousand people were freed at Stagville, here in Durham, at the end of the Civil War. On Juneteenth, Historic Stagville invites visitors to remember emancipation and explore history on one of North Carolina's largest plantations with outdoor guided tours and more. Admission and tours are free for all, but make sure you reserve your free ticket online.
Last but not least, pick up our African American Heritage Guide at the Visitor Info Center to find out where you can see, feel, learn, and embrace the past.