Hundreds of Chapel Hill and Carrboro community members gathered at the Hargraves Community Center Sunday afternoon for a Juneteenth celebration.

The event, which highlighted local Black culture, business and history, marked the first full-scale, town-sponsored Juneteenth event since the local governments formally recognized June 19 as an official holiday.

The hundreds of people walking around vendor tents, food trucks and a concert stage on the community center’s baseball field was a far cry from the motorcade celebration held in 2021 and few widespread events in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

People line up outside food vendors and local business’ tents outside the Hargraves Community Center on Sunday, June 19, 2022, as the Juneteenth Celebration winds down.

Several organizations teamed up to coordinate Sunday’s event with the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro. One of those groups is the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP Youth Council, led by President Kendall Lytle. She told Chapelboro seeing the final result and so many community members on-hand was a surreal experience — particularly knowing the efforts made by the various community stakeholders.

“There are so many things that are here that wouldn’t be here without the youth [organizers] and there are so many things that are here that wouldn’t be without the adults involved,” said Lytle. “That collaboration is always necessary and I’d push for more work between the generations.”

John French, the Hargraves Recreational Supervisor, echoed the importance of community collaboration delivering a fulfilling product. He credited the youth organizers for their passion for the Juneteenth event and said their engagement is a critical part of the holiday. French also said it felt encouraging to see so many people using the Hargraves Community Center again after less activity during the pandemic.

“We want people to know the center is open again,” he said. “Being able to connect the older generation with the younger generation and [for them] to see what we’ve got going on, it’s a beautiful thing.”

There was no shortage of activities on Sunday. In addition to vendors outside, there was a small, Black-owned business fair held indoors at the community center. Outside, children had space to play with blocks or use spray paint to decorate wooden panels. A stage with rotating Black artists and performance groups provided a soundtrack to the afternoon.

With items ranging from paintings to handmade soaps to desserts, vendors run their stations inside the Hargraves Community Center for the 2022 Chapel Hill-Carrboro Juneteenth Celebration.

Several children use spray paint to draw or write messages at a painting station.

Local hip-hop performer Kevin “Rowdy” Rowsey closes out his set on stage at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Juneteenth event at the Hargraves Community Center.

Ava Vanhook, who is a Chapel Hill resident and a teacher at McDougle Middle School, sat in the shade outside to cool off and listen to music. She said her family typically would drive to Durham to celebrate Juneteenth and she is happy to see her local governments “finally jumping on the bandwagon.”

“To me,” Vanhook said, “it’s just a time where I can get with people who look like me and celebrate where we’ve come from. To actually be able to get out here and be able to do things my ancestors were not able to do, I’m excited about it — I’m happy and proud to be out here today.”

Cassandra Bullock, who is also a Chapel Hill-Carrboro resident, expressed her gratitude for having a local event that brought together people young and old from the community.

“We really and truly appreciate it,” she said. “Everything that’s gone on in the past couple of weeks, it’s really good to see everyone is enjoying each other, having reason to celebrate.”

Bullock said she never learned about Juneteenth and the emancipation of Galveston while attending Chapel Hill High School growing up. She said to her, the holiday serves as a reminder and a chance to educate.

“It’s not about celebration, it’s about knowing the history,” said Bullock. “If our kids can know the history about everything, that will make it so much better and they will understand the celebration when we do [have] it.”

Lytle echoed similar sentiments, stressing the importance of the younger generations to not only know the history of Juneteenth but to be empowered in their actions.

“This world will be ours very soon,” she said. “We absolutely do need to take the reins because not only are the youth bringing in these big and bright ideas, they’re going to be running stuff soon.” does not charge subscription fees, and you can directly support our efforts in local journalism here. Want more of what you see on Chapelboro? Let us bring free local news and community information to you by signing up for our biweekly newsletter.