Asheville celebrates Juneteenth

In 2015, the annual Juneteenth celebration at Hillcrest featured games, food, music and dancing. Photo courtesy of Women's Wellbeing and Development Foundation Courtesy of Women's Wellbeing and Development Foundation

Not everyone in Asheville has heard of Juneteenth, a celebration of the end of the institution of slavery in the United States. Even one of the organizers of a local event to commemorate the day says he has only been aware of its significance for a few years.

“As we were coming up, we never heard about Juneteenth,” explains Thomas Boyd, a hip-hop artist who is also known as Ready Red. “Honestly, I’m 34 and I probably started to hear about it in 2016.”

Along with Davaion Bristol and Marcus “Mook” Cunningham of Urban Combat Wrestling, Boyd is producing this year’s observance of Juneteenth Festival: Celebrating Freedom at the Hillcrest neighborhood, where the day has been celebrated since at least 2011. Activities run noon-8 p.m. at 100 Atkinson St. The event was originally slated for June 19, but has been rescheduled for June 20 due to inclement weather.


Historic occasion

Upon arriving in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, Union Gen. Gordon Grant informed folks there that the Civil War was over and enslaved people had been freed. Although slavery had officially ended 2 1/2 years earlier with Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, no official had attempted to liberate African Americans in Texas prior to Grant’s arrival.

Originally celebrated almost solely within the African American community, interest in the Juneteenth holiday has waxed and waned through the years. And while Juneteenth is an official state holiday or observance in 47 of the 50 states, including North Carolina, it’s not yet recognized at the federal level.

For Bristol, the day offers an opportunity for fun and fellowship while boosting awareness of the history surrounding the end of slavery.

“Juneteenth is a representation of what could be in America, but what we don’t see yet. We have a whole lot of work to do, and this Juneteenth we’re gonna celebrate for the work that’s already been done,” says Bristol. “With all the protests and hard feelings, we feel like people need to party. People need something to unwind.”

Highlights of the Hillcrest festival, which Boyd says will follow social distancing and sanitation protocols, will include a series of wrestling and hip-hop performances that focus on telling the story of emancipation, soul food prepared by Daddy D’s Suber Soulfood as well as neighborhood residents and kid-friendly activities.

Besides a stage donation from LEAF, the event has no corporate sponsors. On June 12, Boyd launched a Facebook fundraiser with the goal of raising $2,500. By June 16, more than 60 individual donors had chipped in to meet that goal.

“The event is open to anyone who wants to attend,” he says. “It’s all about recognizing a holiday that’s real. It’s not no Pilgrim holiday. It’s for everyone. If you ain’t got no racism in your heart, come to Juneteenth. This is what this is all about. MLK had a dream for all of us. We’re taking the movement and keeping it running.”

We mean business

The newly formed Mountain Business Equity Initiative is hosting a virtual event, Honoring Juneteenth ://: Emancipating Entrepreneurship, which will livestream 4-7 p.m. via Zoom. (To register, email

The event will focus on black liberation and celebrate the legacy of black business owners and entrepreneurs through storytelling and community discussion. There will also be a screening of the short film Boss: The Black Experience in Business, along with a presentation that introduces the MBEI’s guiding principles and founders, including Cortina Jenelle Caldwell, founder of the adé PROJECT, DeWayne Barton of Hood Huggers International and Jason Muhammad of JM Leadership Consulting.

“For us, this event marks the launch of our initiative to the community and how we can best support other black business owners and entrepreneurs, especially at a time which is so critical because so many of us have been impacted by COVID-19,” says Caldwell.

“The work we’re engaged in is to strive for equity through education, self-empowerment and economic mobility. We’re looking to overcome disparities faced by black entrepreneurs by providing holistic support that has not been historically received. ”

Caldwell continues, “Originally when we planned the event, we did not anticipate that it would be in the midst of global and national demonstrations around anti-racism and anti-blackness. For all of those reasons and more, it feels like a really relevant time to be talking about entrepreneurship and ownership in black community. In a lot of ways, that’s one of the many key paths of what it means to be liberated and work beyond white supremacy.”

While folks of all races are welcomed and encouraged to participate in the event, Caldwell emphasizes that the experiences of black folks will be centered during the virtual gathering. She adds that in addition to listening and learning about this important piece of black history, the best way for community members to support and serve is through volunteering their time, offering relevant business expertise or making a financial contribution.


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15 thoughts on “Asheville celebrates Juneteenth

  1. Enlightened Enigma

    I hope everyone will remember and announce that it was the Republicans of the era who FREED their ancestors! Republicans are the party of freedom, NOT the party of slavery like the democrackkks.

    BLEXIT is your answer! Candace Owens for President 2024 !

    • NFB

      So you support removing the Vance Monument and Confederate monuments everywhere because they were Democrats, right?

      • Enlightened Enigma

        I would support removing the name Vance and leaving the obelisk. I do not support erasing history. And, the democrackkks
        are just too EVIL to even believe anymore.

    • Jason Williams

      So you agree to give the descendants of those slaves the equivalent of their “40 acres and a mule” that Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman (a Republican) promised to give them?

      • Enlightened Enigma

        that would totally depend on the success level of each one and whether they were asking for it…many would be insulted to do that in the name of freedom!

        • luther blissett

          The “success level” didn’t initially matter to those who were granted homesteads, and it didn’t matter at all to those who got cut-rate mortgages. What mattered was their whiteness as judged by the whiteness-judging of those times.

      • Angel

        After the assignation of Lincoln. Democrat president Andrew Johnson explicitly reversed and annulled proclamations such as Special Field Orders No. 15 and the Freedmen’s Bureau bills. Freed slaves took up lands along SC, GA, FL coast. After jackson annulled the proclamation freed slaves where relocated jackson was impeached not long after. Also 40 acres an mule was promised to then slaves NOT desendents ! Asian slaves where given china towns. Irish slaves where taken to the Kentucky coal mines.

        • luther blissett

          Oh dear god the “Irish slave” garbage. It’s just nonsense and word salad and the product of a broken education.

          Let’s look at actual history: the federal government (regardless of party) turns white-ish immigrants into white citizens by granting them property, whether it’s homesteads or suburban houses and excludes black people; the federal government bulldozes black homes under the auspices of urban renewal. Every white person inherits some degree of advantage.

        • bsummers

          noun: assignation; plural noun: assignations
          an appointment to meet someone in secret, typically one made by lovers.
          “his assignation with an older woman”

          Wow. So the ‘shot-in-the-head’ thing was just a cover story for the fact that Lincoln was cheating on Mary? Man, everything I know is wrong!

        • Jason Williams

          The ideas of White, Asian, and any other non-african slaves are straw-men arguments intended to draw attention away from how inhumane and cruel chattel slavery was.

          Granted, like impoverished people of other nationalities, many Irish emigrated to the Americas in the 17th and 18th centuries as indentured servants. There were also a smaller number were forcibly banished into indentured servitude during the period of the English Civil Wars, It also can’t be denied indentured servants often lived and worked under harsh conditions and were sometimes treated cruelly.

          However unlike institutionalized chattel slavery, indentured servitude was neither hereditary nor lifelong. Unlike black slaves, white indentured servants had legal rights; they were citizens. Also unlike black slaves, indentured servants weren’t considered property.

          Some of the first Chinese immigrants came to America in 1815. They were immigrants and not slaves, and most lived in California. After the war they did work on Southern plantations and the Trans-Continental Railroad as very cheap labor, and they probably were exploited and treated harshly, but they were not slaves like Africans were. Also they were forced into living in “Chinatowns” not given them.

          Now secondly if one takes up the banner that says modern black people don’t deserve reparations because they are descendants, then those same people can’t claim the moral high ground of being the better party because their descendants freed the slaves.

          • M McLaughlin

            On this side of the Atlantic. On Ireland the Normans had Irish in concentration camps in the 12th century. 1000 years of white-on-white slavery in Europe so please excuse me if I think color doesn’t make a hoot of diffrence.

    • luther blissett

      Weird how the Republicans of THIS ERA have a problem with it, right?

      • Enlightened Enigma

        how so ? the smarter people know the truth …but not many of them around here …

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