Juneteenth’s tapestry of voices: A symphony of African-American culture takes center stage in Lexington

LEXINGTON, KY — A city that has stood as a witness to the black community’s relentless pursuit of freedom since the days of enslavement, Lexington embraces Juneteenth with a tapestry of activities that reverberate the call for equality and acknowledge a past tinted with struggle.

Commencing on June 10th and spanning through June 19th, the City of Lexington has planned a series of spirited events to honor the third anniversary of Juneteenth’s recognition as a national holiday. Thanks to the efforts of the community, Juneteenth will be celebrated with a host of events celebrating Black culture and history.

A rich mosaic of colors will be on display as Juneteenth flags flutter along Main Street beginning June 13, and banners drape the Legacy Trail from Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden to the North Lexington YMCA. These symbols serve as reminders of the city’s embattled past.

Lexington’s tryst with racial equality has been a fraught one. Enslavement of black families in its early history transitioned to segregation, economic disinvestment in Black neighborhoods like Brucetown and Davis Bottom, and continued discrimination. These neighborhoods now face “urban reinvestment”, a term that often belies the painful process of gentrification for long-standing residents.

Events that stand out in the celebrations include the 18th Annual Juneteenth Jubilee on June 10th at African Cemetery No. 2. Here, the community will honor Civil War soldiers who fought for freedom, an event that is redolent of the days when Black Lexingtonians fought their chains. Dr. Alicestyne Turley, historian and educator, will shed light on “Kentucky’s United States Colored Troops” in her keynote address.

Soulteenth Fest, scheduled for June 17th at Moondance Amphitheater, emphasizes the ingenuity of the black community through a culmination of music, art, agriculture, and food. This event echoes the resourcefulness that was crucial for survival through the yesteryears of struggle.

The Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, a historically significant establishment in Lexington, will host the Juneteenth Independence Day Celebration on June 17th. The theater will resonate with African-American voices raised in jazz, hip-hop, African drumming, gospel, and more, in a fitting tribute to the freedom fought for and earned.

A campaign, “A Sense of Place”, will be launched on June 19th at Cadentown Missionary Baptist Church. With a focus on over 20 rural black hamlets, this campaign is an effort to remember and celebrate Lexington’s rural black communities, who have long remained on the sidelines of history.

With these events, Lexington does not just celebrate freedom and liberty, but also holds a mirror to its past. It serves as a reminder that the pursuit of equality is both an acknowledgment of history and a commitment to weaving a future where the dignity of all is upheld.

Full event details from LFUCG:

  • 18th Annual Juneteenth Jubilee, 7:30 – 8:30 p.m., June 10, African Cemetery No. 2, 419 East 7th St.: Lexington’s original Juneteenth Celebration will again highlight the spirit of freedom, and honor the Civil War soldiers who fought for that freedom. Historian and Educator Dr. Alicestyne Turley will provide the keynote address, “Kentucky’s United States Colored Troops.” 
  • Soulteenth Fest, noon – 6 p.m., June 17, Moondance Amphitheater, 1152 Monarch St.: Celebrates black liberation and ingenuity through music, art, agriculture, and food. Speaker – Martina Barksdale
  • Juneteenth Independence Day Celebration, doors open 4 p.m. / performances begin 6 p.m., June 17, Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, 300 E. Third St.: A celebration of African-American independence and artistic expression through live performances including jazz, hip-hop, line-dancing, African drumming, spoken word, rap, violin, stepping, ballet, gospel, acting, and opera. 
  • Seventh Annual Juneteenth Celebration presented by U.S. Freedmen Coalition, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., June 18, Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden, 577 E. Third St.: Gospel, hip-hop, jazz, dedication of new artwork, speaker concerning saving historical black hamlets, open microphone.
  • Juneteenth Freedom Day, 2 – 8 p.m., June 18, Douglass Park, 726 Georgetown St.: A community celebration sponsored by Wiseguys Barbershop and the Georgetown Neighborhood Association to bring awareness to culture, history, equality, and peace through food, music and activities for children.
  • “A Sense of Place” campaign launch, 11 a.m., June 19, Cadentown Missionary Baptist Church, 2950 Cadentown Road: The committee working to remember and celebrate Lexington’s rural black hamlets will launch its campaign to continue preservation efforts, and to utilize the Cadentown property (including school, Church and cemetery) as a gathering place for historical purposes for over 20 plus hamlets.

Photo: Yvonne Giles speaks at a press conference announcing the Juneteenth celebration at Cadentown. (LexTV screenshot)