Once Home to Enslaved People, Alexandria’s Carlyle House Hosts Standout Inaugural Juneteenth Celebration

"I think that it is important to acknowledge that this land holds memory and history of enslaved people, that they called this place home as well,” said Jamal Rashad, a poet who performed at the event.

The inaugural Juneteenth Celebration in partnership with Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association @ the Athenaeum and Christopher Alexandria-Bernard Thomas. (Photo: NOVA Fine Arts)
The inaugural Juneteenth Celebration in partnership with Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association @ the Athenaeum and Christopher Alexandria-Bernard Thomas. (Photo:

Alexandria VA.- The Carlyle House in Old Town, Alexandria hosted a Juneteenth celebration on Saturday, June 19, in collaboration with the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association @ the Athenaeum and Christopher Alexandria-Bernard Thomas. 

“I am happy just because it was a Juneteenth event and it gave us an opportunity to bring awareness to all of the issues that the community faces. So I am very happy to see people doing stuff like this,” said Kevin Wiggins, one of the poets who performed a reading for attendees. 

Many people attended the free event which included live music, art, poetry readings and an informational scavenger hunt. 

Different booths, which included fun activities and a variety of merchandise for event goers to buy, were set up in front of the eighteenth-century historic house and now museum in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. John Carlyle, a wealthy merchant and a founder of Alexandria, completed the elegant stone mansion in 1753. 

The Athenaeum’s Executive Director Veronica Szalus and Tisha Thorne, the co-owner of Sew Creative Lounge, stand side by side at their booth which offered a stamp activity for attendees.

Event goers also had the opportunity to tour the Carlyle House Museum.  

“I think that it is important to acknowledge that this land holds memory and history of enslaved people, that they called this place home as well,” said Jamal Rashad, a poet who performed at the event.

“So I think that there were people who were here that never left and I think that it is important to acknowledge them and to give tribute or honor to them.” 

Behind the Carlyle House, attendees sat and watched the poets Jamal Rashad, Simply Sherri and Kevin Wiggins, also known as Mysfit, perform. After the poetry readings, cellist Benjamin Gates performed for the crowd as well. 

Poet Simply Sherri performs a reading for the crowd.

A scavenger hunt with different informational cards about the Carlyle House’s history and Juneteenth was set up throughout the garden. 

Anna Bohn, an intern at the Carlyle House for the summer, researched and put together the scavenger hunt for the event.

“We were hoping that we would have 100 people over the course of the day and I think we managed to get 100 people in the first hour, so we are so so happy,” said Bohn.

One of many informational displays available for people to view throughout the property.

Attendee Ashley Kempczynski moved to Alexandria in January and said she decided to go to the event in hopes of learning more about the history of Alexandria and Juneteenth. 

“I have been really trying to better my own understanding and knowledge of the history and how that impacts present day, and then being just really involved in trying to get more involved in the City of Alexandria as well and learning the local history now that I am a resident,” said Kempczynski.

Attendees were given the opportunity to not only celebrate Juneteenth, but to learn more about the history behind Alexandria, the Carlyle House, Juneteenth and the trials black Americans still face to this day. 

Cellist Benjamin Gates performs for the crowd.

 

MORE: How Much Do You Know About the Carlyle House?