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'It has served so many people for so many years': Juneteenth celebrations commence at Hargraves

Soul band Finesse performs at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 17, 2023.

The Hargraves Community Center hosted its third annual Chapel Hill-Carrboro Juneteenth celebration on June 17 with speakers, music and a range of activities open to community members. 

This year’s celebration was unique, as the beginning of the event was spent inducting the Community Center into the N.C. Civil Rights Trail with a ceremony. 

Juneteenth, which falls on June 19, is a celebration of the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in the United States. The day became a federally recognized holiday in 2021.

Nate Davis, a Northside community member and former director of Hargraves, spoke at the marker dedication ceremony at this year’s Juneteenth event. 

“It was a community, not just for the kids, but for everyone,” he said.

Davis met his wife at Hargraves and said that the Community Center provided him a job, a place to raise his family and an invaluable sense of community.

“It’s going to take the community as a whole, to continue to support this facility, and the things that they need to do to reach the young people, the middle-aged people and the older people in this community,” he said.

Molly Luby, community history coordinator for the town of Chapel Hill, said that at last year’s Juneteenth celebration, community members voted for a Chapel Hill location of the trail marker. 

“It was a no contest,"  she said. "Hargraves won in such a landslide."

The N.C. Civil Rights Trail, which is funded by the N.C. African American Heritage Commission, is a state-wide initiative to recognize and honor spaces and places like Hargraves that are integral to Black communities in North Carolina. 

“We are just so happy to be able to unveil it,” she said. 

Hargraves was built in 1939 and has since served as a hub for community-building within Chapel Hill’s historically Black Northside neighborhood. 

“This is really the heart of the community, and it is such a special place,” Luby said. “This is a place that was built by the Black community.”

Cortland Gilliam, Chapel Hill’s poet laureate, read two poems at the dedication portion of the event — titled "Unity" and "Ode to the Black Child."

He said that, in his time as poet laureate, he has learned the importance and history of spaces like Hargraves within Chapel Hill

“I don’t think you can get community without unity, and if we’re not moving together, we are not really moving,” he said.

After the unveiling of the marker, the Juneteenth celebration began. 

“As we gather this weekend to celebrate freedom and uplift the immense and invaluable contributions of Black Americans, let us remember that Juneteenth also serves as a reminder of our resiliency and resolve,” U.S. Rep. Valerie Foushee (D-N.C. 4th) said.

Rep. Foushee, who represents Chapel Hill and Carrboro in the U.S. House of Representatives, recounted the history of Juneteenth in her speech to community members.

She said that although the Black community is celebrating 150 years of freedom this Juneteenth, there is still work to be done to combat systemic racism and inequity. 

“Let us use this day as a rallying call for us to reflect, to rededicate, to gather our strength for the work ahead and to appreciate the progress that has been made,” she said.

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After Rep. Foushee’s speech, the stage hosted several local musical artists as well as additional poems that were spoken by Gilliam. 

Attendees could watch the performances, view a civil rights timeline inside, walk around to different booths or participate in activities and games. 

Hargraves hosted a number of community organizations such as the Marian Cheek Jackson Center, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP, Fathers on the Move and EMPOWERment, Inc. 

These groups provided information regarding the resources they offer the community that Hargraves serves and the larger Chapel Hill area.

Yvonne Cleveland, a Northside community member, said she is excited for the Juneteenth celebration to continue happening at Hargraves in years to come. 

“It has served so many people for so many years,” she said. 


@DTHCityState |

Walker Livingston

Walker Livingston is the 2024 enterprise managing editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as summer city & state editor and assistant city & state editor. Walker is a sophomore pursuing a double major in journalism and media and American studies, with a minor in data science. 

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