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10+ ways to observe Juneteenth in Asheville

Take part in local celebrations from galas to plays.

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This month’s Downtown After 5 is a Juneteenth celebration.

On Wednesday, June 19, Juneteenth will commemorate the day the abolition of slavery was enforced in the US, nearly two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth was recognized as a federal holiday in 2021 and was the first national holiday to be signed into law since MLK Day was established in 1983.

Around Asheville, there are plenty of opportunities to participate in both educational and celebratory events, so let’s make a plan.

Beginning Monday, June 17, the MLK Association of Asheville and Buncombe County is hosting a series of four lunch and learns. The events will include a catered lunch followed by local leaders speaking on topics like the “First African American Families of Asheville and Buncombe County” and “Early African American Health Care & Today’s African American Inequities.” Lunch and learns are free and open to the public — find the full schedule.

“Leah & the Rabbit": A Juneteenth Play | Saturday, June 15 | 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. | Vance Birthplace Historic Site, 911 Reems Creek Rd., Weaverville | Free | See the play that tells the story of Leah Erwin, an enslaved woman who lived on the Vance plantation, followed by a moderated discussion.

Juneteenth Story Time | Saturday, June 15 | 11 a.m.-12 p.m. | Pack Memorial Library, 67 Haywood St., Asheville | Free | Kids and families can learn about the history of the holiday through books and songs with local author Jerrie Settles.

Juneteenth Food and Facts | Tuesday, June 18 | 5:30-7:30 p.m. | East Asheville Library, 3 Avon Rd., Asheville | Free | Get a taste of traditional Juneteenth foods and African American culinary history with two documentaries, “Our America: Black Freedom” and “James Hemings: Ghost in America’s Kitchen.”

"Leah and the Rabbit" being performed

“Leah & the Rabbit” has also been performed at The Asheville Fringe Arts Festival.

Photo via NC Historical Sites

Juneteenth on the Block | Wednesday, June 19 | 4-7 p.m. | YMI Cultural Center, 39 S. Market St., Asheville | Free | The day will begin with pop-in events from LEAF Global Arts, PennyCup Coffee, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Noir Collective, Asheville Crafted Edge, JD Ellison & Company, and more, before the evening ends at The Foundry Hotel’s Workshop Lounge for light food + drinks and fellowship.

Distinguished Speaker Presentation and Reception | Wednesday, June 19 | 12-2 p.m. | Black Wall Street AVL, 8 River Arts Pl., Asheville | Free | Mary D. Williams will present on the topic “From Slavery to Juneteenth Jubilee” as part of the MLK Association’s Juneteenth programming.

Juneteenth Jam and Cookout | Wednesday, June 19 | 6-11 p.m. | Getaway River Bar, 790 Riverside Dr., Asheville | Free | This 21+ celebration includes a 103.3 Asheville FM Live Session with DJ Nex Millen and the Reggie Headen Band, guest speakers, and food from Turk Da Jerk, all benefiting local nonprofit My Daddy Taught Me That.

Juneteenth Gala | Thursday, June 20 | 7-9:30 p.m. | Stephens-Lee Community Center, 30 George Washington Carver Ave., Asheville | Free | The “tie or no-tie” evening will feature light food and drinks, live music, and an African attire fashion show.

Juneteenth at Downtown After 5 | Friday, June 21 | 5-9 p.m. | North Lexington Avenue, Asheville | Free | Enjoy music from Lyric and Sierra Green & The Giants, explore crafts and goods from BIPOC vendors, enjoy food from Black-owned food trucks, and learn about community nonprofits.

Know of any other Juneteenth events in Asheville? Send them our way so we can add them to our events calendar.

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