Juneteenth: In Song & Word


Join us to commemorate and celebrate Juneteenth with an evening of poetry and music. This program is brought to you in partnership with the N.C. African American Heritage Commission and is free and open to the public. Registration is required for this seated performance including:

· Nnenna Freelon with Pierce Freelon

· Shana Tucker

· Freddy Greene “Street Genie”

· The Martin Luther King, Jr. All-Children’s Choir

· Destiny Hemphill

· Fred Joiner

Juneteenth, a National Day of Observance, is recognized on June 19 and commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States as of that date in 1865. The holiday was first celebrated in Texas, when enslaved people were declared free under the terms of the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation. Although the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was issued on September 22, 1862, the final Emancipation Proclamation was not issued until January 1, 1863. This is the date when the proclamation went into effect.

The day was recognized as a federal holiday in 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law. It was written into law as a nationally recognized event in 2023. In that same year, Governor Roy Cooper declared June 19 Juneteenth Day in North Carolina saying, “Juneteenth is a day to celebrate Black heritage, history and freedom. It's also an opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made while understanding that we must tackle the longstanding inequities and racism that still exist."

This evening’s events will begin with the choir followed by a brief explanation of Juneteenth by Adrienne Nirdé (African American Heritage Commission), and then performances by Freddy Greene, Destiny Hemphill, Shana Tucker, Fred Joiner, and Nnenna and Pierce Freelon.

Multi GRAMMY® Award nominee Nnenna Freelon is known worldwide as a compelling and captivating live performer. Recently, Nnenna starred in the critically acclaimed show “Georgia on My Mind: Celebrating the Music of Ray Charles.” Freelon is no stranger to the music of the master singer — she toured with Ray Charles, as well as many other great jazz artists including Ellis Marsalis, Al Jarreau, George Benson, Earl Klugh, Take 6, and others. Read more about Nneena.

Pierce Freelon is a GRAMMY® nominated artist, picture book author and podcaster. His GRAMMY® nominated children’s music albums AnceStars and Black to the Future have been featured on the Today Show, NPR and Billboard. Pierce is a former Durham City Councilman, who has traveled the world educating youth about Hip Hop, beat making and Black culture. He founded Blackspace, a digital maker space offering teens free programming rooted in Afrofuturism; and co-founded Beat Making Lab, an Emmy Award-winning PBS web-series. He is the writer, composer and co-director of the animated series History of White People in America, an official selection of the Tribeca Film Festival. Read more about Pierce.

With a career marked by creativity, artistry and clever storytelling, renowned singer-songwriter and cellist Shana Tucker captivates audiences with her innovative blend of music known as ChamberSoul. Known for her delightfully intimate performances and endearing audience interplay, Shana continues to inspire and push boundaries with her unique style, blending jazz, soul, and acoustic pop into an unforgettable musical experience. Read more about Shana.

Freddy Greene “Street Genie,” saxophonist/composer, is a native of Franklinton, N.C. He was inspired by his mother, Flora, a storyteller and artist in her own right. She would often tell him the story of a boy whose life was saved by a man who played the horn on the streets. Freddy has performed alongside Percy Sledge, Maxwell, Shirley Caesar, Aloe Black, and can often be heard lifting his horn for justice with Rev. Dr. William J. Barber. Learn more about Freddy.

The Martin Luther King Jr. All-Children’s Choir, directed by Randy Shepard, is a remarkable musical ensemble that embodies the spirit and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Comprised of talented young singers from diverse backgrounds, this choir aims to promote unity, social justice, and equality through the power of music.

Destiny Hemphill is a ritual worker and poet based in Durham, N.C. A recipient of fellowships from Naropa University’s Summer Writing Program, Callaloo, Tin House, and Kenyon’s Writers Workshop, she is the author of the poetry chapbook Oracle: a Cosmology.

Fred Joiner, a poet and curator currently based in Carrboro, N.C., has a forthcoming book, Mirror in Our Music, published by Birds LLC. He was the 2019–2022 Carrboro Poet Laureate.

We hope you will join us to learn, celebrate, and amplify the story of this significant moment in our nation’s history.

This special performance is sponsored by Come Hear NC, the African American Heritage Commission, and the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.