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Beck Cultural Exchange Center celebrates Juneteenth with four days of events

On June 17-20, the Beck Center will hold four events around Knoxville to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in America.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — June 19 marks 157 years since the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States.

Rev. Renee Kesler, president of Beck Cultural Exchange Center, said Juneteenth is a day to reflect on the past and learn from it.

"When we talk about freedom, when we talk about emancipation, we are talking about freedom in every area of life for people, and especially disadvantaged Black and brown people," Kesler said. "Whatever is your area of interest, and your sphere of influence, find a way that you can attack injustices within those areas, and be the voice for that."

The Beck Cultural Exchange Center will be holding both digital and in-person events to commemorate the occasion. The events are open to the public.

Friday, June 17 at 4 p.m.

The Juneteenth Town Hall Racial Justice Discussion Part XXII will be held in person at the Beck Cultural Exchange Center and streamed live on the Beck's YouTube channel

Reverend Renee Kesler will moderate the town hall that will include speakers such as Reverend Dr. Tom Butler, former president of the NAACP; Clarence Vaughn, vice-chair of the MLK Commission; and Sixth District City Councilwoman Gwen McKenzie. 

Saturday, June 18 at 10 a.m.

A special Juneteenth exhibition tribute with the Piano Project of Knoxville will also be held at the Beck Cultural Exchange Center. 

The Beck will honor those formerly enslaved with white roses on the front lawn. It will also unveil a musical art exhibit that pays tribute to the history of Juneteenth. 

Professional artists Ty Murray and Daniel Craft along with youth artist Trinity Anthony will unveil an original artistic Juneteenth piano that will be placed in the center of the Beck lawn.

Sunday, June 19 at 2 p.m.

The Juneteenth Father’s Freedom Dinner will be held at the Beck with live music by Jazzspirations with Brian Clay and a dinner buffet by chef Chris Baylock with Heart & Soul Catering and more. Tickets for the event are $35 and can be purchased here.

Monday, June 20 at 10 a.m. 

The MLK Memorial March / Juneteenth Parade begins at the midway entrance at Chilhowee Park. Step-off will be at 10 a.m. and will conclude at Walter Hardy Park at noon. The Beck Juneteenth Celebration will run from noon until 4 p.m. at Walter Hardy Park. The celebration will feature remarks by Reverend Dr. Harold Middlebrook, music by Brian Salesky with the Knoxville Opera along with classically trained vocalist Michael Rodgers and a special Juneteenth presentation by Arteece Slay and more. 

For parade information, contact parade chair Mabrey R. Duff at Parade@MLKKnoxville.com

Juneteenth (short for “June Nineteenth”) marks the end of chattel slavery in the United States as federal troops, including Black troops, arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to announce that all enslaved people be freed. This announcement was made two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by then-President Abraham Lincoln. 

For more information about the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, visit its website

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