Chatham’s ‘Juneteenth’ observance features CORE, WEBB Squared events

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Two local organizations — CORE (Chatham Organizing for Racial Equity) and WEBB Squared — are working together to plan two events in observance and celebration of Juneteenth, which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S. The events take place at the Chatham County Agricultural & Industrial Fair Association in Pittsboro this weekend (Saturday and Sunday, June 18 and 19).

CORE Executive Director Karinda Roebuck and its Reconciliation Director, Michelle Wright, and Stephanie Terry ­— CORE’s organizing director and the executive director of WEBB Squared — share details about the what’s planned.

The “Juneteenth” observance in Chatham County will include special events this Saturday and Sunday, but let’s start with an explanation of what Juneteenth is and why it’s observed ...

WRIGHT: In 2021, Juneteenth became a nationally recognized holiday, but this day has been a celebration of Black culture and a space to honor Black resilience for many years. Five years ago, we chose to expand our recognition of this day into a community event. CORE pays tribute to the significance of June 19, 1865, when the remaining enslaved families and communities in Galveston, Texas, received news of their freedom from Union soldiers — finally making their freedom undeniable a full two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. On that day, these newly liberated people put on their finest clothes and celebrated with food and fellowship. We could never imagine the feeling of being freed, but we work hard to honor this very important day.

ROEBUCK: As an organization, CORE is dedicated to ensuring that Chatham’s Juneteenth is a community-led event where the vision and planning is led by the Black community. It is an opportunity to remember where we have come from, celebrate where we are, and continue to fight for where we want to be. This day serves as an important reminder that we must be united in the fight for justice and equity, committed to reaching each and every community. CORE believes that liberation is In Our Hands, and we are committed to #BuildingStrongerCommunities.

On Saturday, CORE will host “Celebrating Freedom & Black Excellence” at the Chatham County Fairgrounds, starting at 10 a.m. and ending at 2 p.m. What’s on tap for that celebration, and what’s your objective for the day?

WRIGHT: This year our celebration has grown to include a variety of events and activities. We have an amazing keynote speaker, Dasan Ahanu, a renowned poet and activist. There will be a host of Black business vendors for the community to engage with, nonprofit tables to share information on local resources, and food!

We’re very excited to have performances that include local talent from our churches and dance studio, as well as the participation of Ben L. Smith High School out of Greensboro. The school’s drumline and dance team is an amazing new guest. And last but not least, we’ll have “New Band on the Block,” a band out of the Raleigh area providing us with some of our favorite songs. CORE is also excited to host a kids’ area where children can play games, hear storytelling, and leave with books.

Our goal for Juneteenth is to bring together Chatham and surrounding communities to celebrate Black Freedom and Black Excellence. We want this to be an event that offers a beacon of love and community — in a society where being unloved and disregarded can feel more common than empathy and kindness, we hope to offer a space where the fullness of the Black community is seen, heard, and honored.

What’s the significance of having Juneteenth at the fairgrounds in Pittsboro?

ROEBUCK: Chatham Fairgrounds is officially called the Chatham County Agricultural & Industrial Fair Association and was the home of the Chatham County Colored Agricultural Fair, which started in the 1950s. Today, it remains a Black-founded and operated organization. The history of this organization is a beautiful example of what community organizing looks like addressing issues important to the community — providing a safe place for African-American farmers and their families to gather. The fair has evolved to what it is today, remaining a Black-operated organization that hosts the annual Chatham County Fair, an event for all to safely gather and enjoy some friendly competition for the biggest pumpkin and watermelon.

Then on Sunday, WEBB Squared will celebrate Juneteenth with an entrepreneurial-related event. First, remind us of what WEBB Squared is all about...

TERRY: Wealth through Entrepreneurship for Black Business is a statewide nonprofit incubator for Black entrepreneurs living and building their businesses in rural counties in North Carolina.

Business data from the research-based company McKinsey & Company has projected that the Black-White wealth gap in the United States will cost the economy $1 trillion annually by 2028. Studies also indicate that Black businesses achieving revenue parity with White companies can become critical components in closing the racial wealth gap.

While incubator-accelerators focus on Black Entrepreneurs in urban cities, there are few to none working to support Black Entrepreneurs in predominantly rural counties in North Carolina.

WEBB Squared is here to help these entrepreneurs succeed and create profitable Black businesses that will benefit rural communities and their economies.

What will take place at the WEBB Squared event?

TERRY: To support our work, we started a social enterprise called WEBB Boutique and Thrift, an online thrift store that sells gently used books, jewelry, unique clothing accessories, and curated books with topics that range around our mission. On Juneteenth, we are having a grand opening pop-up of our boutique where people can come in person to shop with us, meet some of our entrepreneurs, and learn more about our work. In addition, we will have complimentary cold drinks while you shop.

Can you update us about how the entrepreneurs you’re working with are coming along?

TERRY: WEBB Squared is in its pilot year. Measurable impacts to date include the following:

• We enrolled 19 Black entrepreneurs across five rural counties in North Carolina

• We helped to raise $3,000 in micro-investment fundraising for one of our entrepreneurs

• Helped to write grants for two entrepreneurs for over $10,000

• 12 entrepreneurs are writing their business plans

• 15 entrepreneurs completed three months of mindset training

• 16 entrepreneurs are meeting weekly with business coaches

• 16 entrepreneurs are actively working their businesses

What else would you like people to know?

TERRY: CORE has been moving and shaking this past year. We have begun efforts to build a broad-based community organizing organization.

What does that mean? Well, we are seeking to become an organization that hosts community organizing efforts. We want to provide the training for community members to become community organizers so that we can begin campaigns to address some of our community’s issues collectively. To learn more about community organizing, join us at one of our “What is Community Organizing?” information sessions or you can even host us to come talk to your group about community organizing.

We continue to organize parents with children in Chatham County Schools and clergy-persons in Chatham. In fact, as a member of the Bahai Faith, The Bahais of Chatham County are hosting for faith leaders “A Conference to Build Vibrant Communities: A Spiritually-Based Gathering Putting Faith Into Action to Create Unity in Chatham County” at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 25 at Chapel in the Pines. We are also expanding our educational opportunities to faith-based institutions with our new workshop, Race Equity in Faith, launching this summer. Additionally, we are pleased to be launching our Reconciliation Project this Fall in which we expand our work on healing racial trauma in our communities and will continue with the Chatham Social Justice Exchange, People of Color Caucus, and White Anti-Racism Caucus.

Karinda Roebuck is a midwife by practice and a racial justice advocate by trade. She’s co-authoring a race equity and power analysis intended for systemic change. Mìchelle Wright is a licensed clinical mental health counselor associate, health education professional, farmer, and community advocate. And Stephanie Terry is a community organizer, trainer and entrepreneur who led a campaign to address the achievement gap by getting an equity assessment report with recommendations adopted and incorporated into the district by the Carrboro school board.

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