Charlotte's House of Africa Celebrates Its 24th Annual Juneteenth Festival
“Fanga alafia, ase" echoed out between the sounds of African drumming at Saturday's Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas. It means, “we welcome you” and “peace,” explained the drummers as they participated in a call-and-response with the crowd.
The festival, hosted by the House of Africa for the last 24 years, filled Commonwealth and Thomas Avenues in Charlotte. Singers and drummers performed on the outdoor stage, including an African drumming group and a father-son duo. Attendees navigated the crowd to buy handmade items from vendors, drink from pineapples, and sway to the music.
For Black people, Saturday was about celebrating freedom and history. Many were excited to attend such an event. Lashica Levins brought her two sons to the festival.
“This day is extremely important for me to bring my sons, as black males, to show them that this is a day that we commemorate the freedom of African Americans that live in the United States,” Levins said.
It was truly a day of peace, in which all were welcome and many from different backgrounds showed up. Mandy and Donyell Ritchotte, a white couple, say they came to celebrate unity and because it was important to them to show support.
“My thoughts are every white person should be here as well,” Donyell said. “I think that the more we speak out against racism and things like that, there's not going to be a change until we step up and say there needs to [be] a change in this world today.”
Reesie Gary is the historian for her family. She says it’s awful that parts of Black history, like the history of Juneteenth, could again be ignored in schools, due to efforts to stop the teaching of critical race theory, an academic concept that looks at systemic racism instead individual prejudice.
“We need to know why we're out here celebrating,” Gary said. “We should not leave any stone unturned because when we are gone, or we're too old to be out, our children need to be able to carry on and they need to know why they're carrying this on.”
Gary says this is why she makes a point to educate her family, especially her children. She hopes that events like the Juneteenth Festival of the Carolinas will make everyone recognize the importance of the holiday and its history.
“I see a lot of young people out today and I'm very glad to see that,” Gary said. “But I want to make sure that when these children wear their t-shirts or all of the other items, that they understand why they're wearing it. It's very important.”