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'A time when our country first came together': Lexington prepares to observe Juneteenth

Josh James

Lexington is hosting a series of events surrounding Juneteenth, the nationally-celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the U.S. One new addition this year is a campaign to recognize Fayette County’s rural Black hamlets.

In the center of the Lexington African-American hamlet called Cadentown stands a small one-room building tucked off the main roadway. It’s what’s known as Rosenwald school, one of a number of Black schools built in Kentucky in the early 1900s.

"On this side, we have the white wood frame school building, which educated kids through middle school that we would call today through 6th to 8th grade," says Adrienne Thakur, deputy director of recreation for Lexington Parks and Recreation. "And then in front of us on the other side is the original church for the community."

The school and church will play an important role in a campaign dubbed "A Sense of Place," meant to preserve artifacts and the history of the hamlets. It will officially kick off its events, education efforts, and fundraising on Juneteenth.

That’s in addition to a number of other community events, starting with the 18th annual Juneteenth Jubilee at African Cemetery No. 2; Soulteenth, focusing on music, art, and food; and the Juneteenth Independence Day Celebration, bringing a variety of live performances to the Lyric Theatre.

"What it recognizes is that it's the time when our country first came together, and so I think what people can really look forward to is a celebration of that community," Thakur says.

The events begin this Saturday. All are free. The full calendar is below.

Juneteenth Jubilee

Presented by African Cemetery No. 2
African Cemetery No. 2, 419 East Seventh St.
Saturday, June 10, 2023 | 7:30 – 8:30 p.m.

The 18th annual celebration highlights the spirit of freedom and honors the Civil War soldiers who fought for that freedom.

Soulteenth Fest

Presented by SoulFeast Week
Moondance Amphitheater, 1152 Monarch St.
Saturday, June 17, 2023 | noon – 6 p.m.

Celebrate black liberation and ingenuity through music, art, agriculture and food.

Juneteenth Independence Day Celebration

Presented by the Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center
Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center, 300 East Third St.
Saturday, June 17, 2023 | Doors open at 4 p.m.

Celebrating African American independence and artistic expression through live performances ranging from jazz, hip-hop, line-dancing, spoken word and opera.

Juneteenth Celebration

Presented by Kentucky U.S. Freedmen Coalition
Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden, 577 East Third St.
Sunday, June 18, 2023 | 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Entertainment, food, information booths, vendors and community fellowship celebrating black American liberation.

Juneteenth Freedom Day

Presented by Wise Guys Barbershop & Georgetown St. Neighborhood Association
Douglass Park, 726 Georgetown St.
Sunday, June 18, 2023 | 2 – 8 p.m.

A community celebration with the goal to bring awareness to culture, history, equality and peace to the neighborhood through food, music and kids activities.

“A Sense of Place” Campaign Launch

Cadentown Missionary Baptist Church, 2950 Cadentown Road
Monday, June 19, 2023 | 11 a.m.

Remembering and celebrating the history of Fayette County's rural Black hamlets.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.