Chapel Hill residents came together on Saturday afternoon for a week-delayed Juneteenth rally at McCorkle Place, celebrating the holiday with local speakers, poets and musical performers while reflecting on the town's dark, racist past.
The rally was postponed last week due to inclement weather, but youth organizers Victoria Fornville and Niya Fearrington still felt it was important to hold a peaceful protest in honor of the annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery.
“Even though Juneteenth was last week, we still believe in continuing to celebrate the liberation of Black lives,” Fearrington said, introducing the event.
David Mason Jr., a member of the Chapel Hill Nine, was one of the first speakers. In 1960, Mason was one of nine Black teenagers who organized the first sit-in in Chapel Hill at the Colonial Drug Store on Franklin Street.
“On behalf of the Chapel Hill Nine, I am privileged to say welcome to the movement,” Mason told the crowd. “You are what we've been waiting for.”
Mason reflected on the sit-in movement, and talked about the importance of the current generation keeping up the fight for freedom in the face of racial inequity.
Terrence Foushee, an English teacher at Northwood High School, read a poem in commemoration of the enslaved people who helped build UNC and who may now be buried in Chapel Hill.
Foushee asked the audience to acknowledge the darker parts of Chapel Hill’s history, so that the enslaved people who built the University might be properly honored for their role.
“Black folks here have been painting our sky and campus Carolina Blue, and we've been putting their paintbrushes in the attic,” he said. “Let's hear the voices that whisper underneath wood floors and tell their stories to one another, so these wonderful bodies that have been tossing and turning in their coffins because they feel that we've forgotten about them, can finally rest in the way God intended.”