First-of-his-Child Juneteenth Celebration hosted at Carlyle House

The John Carlyle House hosted a Juneteenth celebration on Sunday, June 19, in conjunction with the Atheneum and poet C. Thomas. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

ALEXANDRIA, VA — On Sunday, June 19, a Juneteenth Celebration was held at Carlyle House. Organized by local poet C. Thomas in conjunction with the Athenaeum and Carlyle House, the celebration included local artwork, spoken word performances by black poets (including Alexandria’s latest Poet Laureate Zeina Azzam), clothing and free entry to the Carlyle House Museum .

local photography pictures two abstract colorful images in black frames on eagles
Local art and photography was also on display. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

Last year, the museum, along with the Athenaeum, came to local black poet and artist C. Thomas with the idea of ​​hosting a Juneteenth celebration, last year’s first official year in recognition of the National Day.

a man wearing a black and red sweater on the John Carlyle Terrace
Local artist and poet C. Thomas announces the spoken word artists of the day. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

†[The Athenaeum and Carlyle House] wanted a black voice to put this together, and they trusted me to orchestrate it,” says Thomas.

Poet Laureate Zeina Azzam performed a selection of poems she wrote especially for that day. She also touched on Father’s Day.

Alexandria's Poet Prize winner Zeina Azzam stands on the back patio of Carlyle House with her hand on her chest
Alexandria’s Poet Laureate Zeina Azzam. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

“I am so honored to be a part of this celebration and commemoration,” Azzam noted. “I think Juneteenth has so much history for us, in terms of talking about liberation, but also talking about delayed justice, and so I think it’s very important for us to face history, but Juneteenth is also a day to remember what had happened. happened in the past and what the promise of the future is. Juneteenth is a way of thinking about how we can move forward while at the same time honoring the past, facing the past, understanding the past and informing each other about what happened.”

poet Khalil Houston stands with his hands pointing at a crowd in front of him
Poet Khalil Houston came from Richmond to perform at the Juneteenth celebration. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

Other poets in attendance included Enoch the Poet from Philadelphia, Khalil Houston from Richmond and Simply Sherri from Washington DC. You can find them all on social media at @enochthepoet, @khalil_houston and @simplypoeticentertainment.

Enoch the Poet is looking at his phone with his hand on his chest
Enoch the Poet was invited from Philadelphia to share his story. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

On Juneteenth, the museum was also open for free tours. The Carlyle House Museum was the former home of John Carlyle, a Scottish merchant who built the house in 1751. Today it houses rotating exhibits inside, a lush garden and courtyard outside, and citizens can visit the establishment as it once was in the 18e century.

sign with the text Museum Open For Tours
The museum was open for free tours for Juneteenth. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

Thomas emphasizes: “Black voices need to be raised and what better way to do that than through poetry, through art, conversation, awkward conversation. Old Town has a very rooted history in slavery. I hope this event and others events like these open eyes, hearts and mouths so that we can bring sunlight to the shadow that is slowly moving away from the subject.”

a canvas portrait of a black woman with sunglasses in multichromatic tint
Local art and photography was also on display. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

The event, the first of its kind in Alexandria since Juneteenth was declared a national holiday in 2021, is expected to become an annual celebration.

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