Center for African American History, Art, Culture hosting reopening on Juneteenth in Aiken

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Shakailah Heard, Aiken Standard, S.C.

Jun. 8—The Center for African American History, Art and Culture in Aiken will host its grand reopening while also celebrating Juneteenth.

The Juneteenth celebration will be from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 19, and admission to the center is free. Parking will be across the street at Aiken’s First Baptist Church, 120 Chesterfield St. N..

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, but it wasn’t until June 19, 1865, that the slaves in Texas learned they were free. That day is now known as Juneteenth, a holiday celebrated by many African Americans.

“Black folks have been celebrating Juneteenth since the early days in the early 1900s and prior to that; and I think this is a great time in Aiken. Juneteenth has been celebrated here in Aiken by the center since about 2006,” Johnson said.

The Juneteenth celebration will feature live music, vendors, line dancing, artistic activities for children, a space for learning African dances and more. A large tent will be available for people to sit under with lawn chairs.

“The building will be open for tours,” said Dr. Melencia Johnson, a board member with the CAAHAC. “We’ll have some exhibits that are put on by art students from USC Aiken; we’re going to have some exhibits that are on loan from the Aiken County Historical Museum, detailing the founders of Aiken County and some other history of Aiken County here in the building.”

Johnson said they are giving the children a hands-on opportunity to learn about African American history, art and culture, as well.

This event will be full of food, fun, information and education, Johnson said.

Johnson mentioned that two key sponsors, Savannah River Site and Aiken Regional Medical Centers, provided funding and Dominion Energy provided the center with a grant to get them “off the ground” for this celebration and to move forward.

Since the early 2000s, the center has held a Juneteenth celebration, but due to the pandemic last year, it was not able to have one. Now that all renovations are complete, the center is ready to reopen.

Once open, the center will focus on African American history and how it relates to Aiken County and South Carolina. There will be different exhibits on display moving forward.

Masks will not be required for the outside activities but must be worn when inside the center on the tours.

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