17 Juneteenth has been a time of celebration since its introduction in 1866. Marking the end of slavery in the United States, Juneteenth is a proud cultural moment for African-Americans and America as a whole.
After 250 years of Black enslavement, 100 years of Jim Crow, a 20 year fight for civil rights, and an epidemic problem of systemic racism on a national scale — Juneteenth being celebrated loud enough for everyone to hear feels a long time in coming.

Officially declared a federal legal holiday in 2021, the city of Fayetteville wasted no time creating an event that shines a bright light on such an important day in American history.

In partnership with Circa 1865 and Cumulus Media, Cool Spring Downtown District will present the inaugural Juneteenth Jubilee and Praise Party, beginning with a festival downtown on Saturday, June 18, and ending with the Juneteenth Jubilee Heritage Brunch on Sunday, June 19.

Plans for the celebration have been in progress since early 2022, and all those involved are excited to bring such an important celebration to the people of Fayetteville.
Up & Coming Weekly spoke with Ashanti Bennet, Director of Special Projects for Cool Spring Downtown District, and Tyrell Walker of Circa 1865, Executive Coordinator of the Juneteenth Freedom Festival. Both expressed their thoughts on what makes this celebration so important.

"This event feels very timely amid some of the social unrest of the last few years," Bennet shared. "I think there's been a yearning to claim some positive victories for the culture. Juneteenth is not just for Black Americans; it's for all Americans. It's the end of a dark time in our history, and it's a time for people to be joyful. We want to celebrate Black culture in a joyful way where everyone feels welcome and included."

Walker sees this event as a powerful source of recognition.

"First and foremost, for us, this is about acknowledgment. A lot of Black history has been overlooked en masse. This acknowledgment from a federal level is about recognizing Black history and what we've gone through as a people — our transition from slavery to freedom is huge."

Circa 1865 is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating, empowering, entertaining and uplifting the Black community as a whole.
Having hosted Juneteenth celebrations since 2018, Circa 1865 was honored to join Cool Spring Downtown District in curating the celebration.

"They've been part of the planning process all the way through, "Bennet said of Circa 1865's involvement. They've helped every step of the way, and it's been nice to combine our efforts — we're just so excited to be doing this."

Saturday, June 18 will focus on bringing people together through food and music. Festivities kick off at noon, and attendees can look forward to a full stage show featuring appearances by Grammy-award-winning rapper Morray and Grammy-nominated folk and country artist Amythyst Kiah.

Also on-site will be nonprofits to share some history about Juneteenth for those not quite as familiar with the holiday.

"There's an excellent opportunity to learn about this holiday," Bennet explained. "Education and information about its history are so important to see how far we've come, especially in a community as diverse as Fayetteville."
Local musicians, artists, vendors, bounce houses and food trucks will fill downtown, adding to the atmosphere of joy and celebration. Fireworks will officially end the event.

"The need to celebrate feels distinctly American," Bennet said. "It will be nine hours of music, fun and food. This event is great for families and a great way to blend history and entertainment together."
Bennet also sees the Jubilee as an official start to the summer.

"It's an opportunity to see local Black-owned businesses, support community, support our local nonprofits. It's a good reason to be outdoors and wander around to see friends, grab something amazing to eat, grab a cold beer and sit and enjoy the day," she said.

Sunday, June 19 will be a more reserved but no less powerful observation of the holiday with the Juneteenth Jubilee Heritage Brunch at Studio 215 in Fayetteville.
The Juneteenth Jubilee Heritage Brunch will have the honor of hosting Jaki Shelton Green as its keynote speaker. Green, North Carolina's two-time Poet Laureate, is the first Black woman to hold the role — a fact that speaks to the possibility of change and the power of lifting Black voices to tell Black stories.
The brunch is a ticketed event catered by The Friend's Table, a local Black-owned business. Doors will open at 9:45 a.m.; the event will start at 10 a.m. and conclude around 12:30 p.m.

"It's nice to have an event here in Fayetteville that gives you a little intellectual stimulation. People can get dressed up, but it's still accessible to the community," Bennet said.
One ticket option offers a nice boxed lunch for $25; the other offers a full hot brunch, including a cocktail bar, for $50.
Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra's Jazz Trio will provide entertainment. A short award ceremony will likely take place before the event's end.

While the Juneteenth Jubilee and Brunch are massive events for the community, they are but a part of the large-scale Juneteenth celebration taking place all over the city and surrounding areas.
Circa 1865, in response to the holiday becoming federally recognized, has organized a four-day celebration, making it the largest Juneteenth celebration in the country.

"We want to make Juneteenth as big as possible," Walker told Up & Coming Weekly. "We want to blow the roof off. We have celebrations planned for Hope Mills, Spring Lake, Fort. Bragg and Fayetteville."

Celebrating Juneteenth in a city such as Fayetteville, which has a high number of Black business owners, seems particularly significant.

"For me, this is about celebration plain and simple," Walker said. "This is our time to celebrate."

Though Juneteenth holds special significance in the African American community, Bennet and Walker both agree that the city's celebration of the holiday is for everyone.

"In our fight for freedom, many people who didn't necessarily look like us still fought beside us," Walker explained. "I see this as a unifying celebration. It's kind of like a birthday party; anyone can come to celebrate — but you still know who the party is for."

"I want people to be pleasantly surprised at the amount of fun they had," Bennet said, adding to the sentiment of unity. "I'm excited to see some diversity, and I want people to have joy. Joy is at the center of everything we do here. We want to bring people together. There's so much going on in the world; it's important to be gathered in a spirit of joy," she continued. "I think it multiplies."

To find out more about Cool Spring Downtown's Juneteenth Jubilee and Praise Party, visit https://visitdowntownfayetteville.com/juneteenth-jubilee/.
For more information regarding Juneteenth celebrations in Hope Mills, Fort Bragg and Spring Lake, visit https://juneteenthfreedomfestival.com/.

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