CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Just like the 4th of July, June 19 celebrates freedom and liberation in this country, the only difference is June 19 includes the freedom of Black people.
The holiday known as Juneteenth commemorates the freedom of all slaves, which didn’t happen until 1865 when slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned they were free, two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Modern-day Juneteenth celebrations still focus on freedom, but the freedom to be unapologetically Black.
“It’s sad that today, so many of us we have to hide who we are at work, public, at school, whether we’re at the grocery store, when we’re at the airport," Charlotte artist Dammit Wesley said. "So for us to be able to be in a space and in an environment where you can be your authentic self and feel no shame for expressing the way you look."
Artists Dammit Wesley and Lica Mishelle created that space.
The two are the founders of Charlotte's Annual Durag Fest, an event held during the weekend of Juneteenth to celebrate Black greatness and the freedom to express Black excellence, through art and cultural clothing such as durags.
Charlotte's annual Durag Fest
“It’s a way of protecting your hair protecting your self and it's also a part of your identity so why not promote it," Sir Will, who owns BLKMRKT with Wesley, said.
Wesley chimed in and agreed. "I feel like for Black people, the durag is one of the last relics and artifacts we have that can’t be appropriated," he added.
Wesley also said the durag, which is cloth, symbolizes a crown and is the official dress of Juneteenth citing how other holidays Black people participate in some type of formal dress to celebrate other cultures, he said he hopes for the same support during Juneteenth.
"Cinco De Mayo, Valentine's Day, Christmas, St. Patrick's Day, Thanksgiving, these are all holidays that exist without us yet we give ourselves to them. But when it's Juneteenth it's crickets, it's quiet, it's just us," Wesley said.
This year's 3rd annual Durag Fest will take place Saturday in Camp North End and will include a day party, live musical performances, an art gallery and of course all races openly celebrating black culture.
“That is freedom that is the one thing most of us don’t have 365," Wesley said. "This moment will allow us to be us to the full extent of our being.”
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