The newly-formed African American Heritage and Cultural Center of New Bern is planning a Juneteenth celebration as their first major event, according to representative Carol Becton.
Becton appeared before the New Bern Board of Aldermen Tuesday to ask for support from the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to hold the Juneteenth event on Wednesday, June 19 at 408 Hancock Street from 6 p.m.-8 p.m.
The Board unanimously approved the request to use the Hancock Street location and to provide trash and recycling containers for use during the event.
Becton said she had received the required Parks and Recreation forms for the event and plans to submit them this week.
“The goal of the event is a celebration with music, light food, and refreshments,” said Becton. “It’s an evening to meet, mingle, and celebrate.”
Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day or Freedom Day, is an American holiday that commemorates the June 19, 1865, announcement of the abolition of slavery in the U.S. state of Texas, and more generally the emancipation of enslaved African Americans throughout the former Confederate States of America.
Becton explained that the African American Heritage and Cultural Center of New Bern (AAHCC) consists of local community leaders and elected officials who came together last spring to “discuss a shared vision of increasing the awareness of eastern North Carolina’s African American heritage and culture.”
The center’s current members include Aldermen Sabrina Bengel and Jameesha Harris, as well as artist and author Ben Watford and community historian Bernard George.
According to Becton, the AAHCC has taken steps to register as a nonprofit. She said the Center has established a fiscal agency partnership with the James City Historical Society to allow receipt of donations and is currently establishing a board of directors and board of advisors.
The AAHCC has joined in discussions with representatives from Tryon Palace as well as the State Historic Preservation Office, the Imagination Station Science Museum in Wilson, and the NC African American Commission in Raleigh, said Becton. She explained that the Center’s goal is to collaborate with local, regional and state organizations to represent a broad spectrum of the African American experience in Eastern North Carolina, including an oral history library, creative performances, seminars and lectures, and exhibitions of artwork.
AAHCC member Carrie Gallagher said the Center will not be housed in a static location but will move around the community as needed to support events like Juneteenth. She said the AAHCC are currently holding twice-monthly meetings at the 408 Hancock Street sight, the former home of the New Bern Firemen’s Museum.
“There’s so many organizations that do this work and struggle to have visibility for it and there’s an opportunity for us all to network together to raise the awareness for all the events,” she commented.
Alderman Bengel said the group is is trying to highlight the “shared history of music and culture and other things that happened in the life of this community and African American community. “
“I’m really proud of their efforts and everything that they have done and coordinated,” she remarked.
Alderman Johnnie Ray Kinsey echoed her remarks.
“I believe what you’re doing is a great thing for the community," he told Becton.