Juneteenth Festival celebrates freedom

Hundreds of residents gathered at Wake Forest Innovation Quarter and Bailey Park last weekend for the 14th Annual Juneteenth Festival.

Juneteenth Festival celebrates freedom
June 21
05:00 2018

Last weekend, communities across the country came together to celebrate Juneteenth, or Freedom Day. The American holiday commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in the United States.

Here in the City of Arts and Innovation, Triad Cultural Arts Inc. has played host to the Juneteenth Festival for the past 14 years.

This year’s celebration began with an African libation ritual performed by Dr. Felicia Piggott-Long. While watering a plant, Piggot-Long roared the names of ancestors who paved the way for African-Americans. She then asked festivalgoers to join in. 

“Martin Luther King Jr.,”  “Malcolm X.” “Maya Angelou” were just a few of the names that echoed from the center of Wake Forest Innovation Quarter. 

For the second year in a row, Dr. Kimya Dennis and Pastor Tembila Covington used the Juneteenth platform to spark serious conversations on physical and mental health in the African-American community.

During the seminar, Dennis and Covington, who serve as the coordinators of the Ministers’ Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity’s Health Committee, discussed ways to deal with stress, the importance of developing healthier eating habits, mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse and other important topics. 

The Festival also featured a spoken word workshop that invited festivalgoers to get in touch with their creative sides. During the 45 minute workshop, hosted by local writers LB the Poet and Ely B, individuals were split into groups and asked, “What freedom is?”

After working together, each group had to create its own spoken word piece describing what freedom meant to them.

If the seminars weren’t for you, there was plenty of other things to enjoy at the festival, including live performances, interactive displays, food trucks, vendors and much more. When discussing the success of the festival over the past 14 years, Cheryl Harry, Triad Cultural Arts Inc. founder and director, said it felt good to know that the community has been supporting the festival for so long.

“It feels good to know that the community is really embracing this historical event. And it seems like the audience is broadening,” said Harry. “It’s bringing people together.”

While some believe the celebration of Juneteenth has been watered down over the years, Harry said, Juneteenth was designed to celebrate the past but it is equally important that we use it as a steppingstone to build a brighter future. She said, “We want the festival to be an education piece as well as a celebratory piece.

“We know who we are because of the past and if we don’t know what the past is, how will we know where we’re going?” continued Harry.  “… I think with what’s going on in our society today, its good to look back at our history to see what perpetuated this attitude.

“That’s the only way we can deal with it, by looking at the root cause because it has a deep history.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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