'Much deeper than just a festival': Apex prepares for Juneteenth celebration

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Thursday, June 8, 2023
Apex prepares for Juneteenth celebration
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Apex became one of the Triangle's first municipalities to designate Juneteenth as a government holiday.

APEX, N.C. (WTVD) -- TJ Evans has spent months preparing to bring Apex's Juneteenth celebration to life.

The event will host performers to entertain the crowd. There will also be food, games, and roughly 30 black-owned small businesses selling goods. All of the bells and whistles of a summer street party that plays into a much bigger goal.

"It's much deeper than just a festival for us. It's about bridging a gap, bringing people together, promoting unity, empowering the youth, and continuing to push those diverse efforts," said Evans. "The goal and the message is unity. Whenever you're chartering new territories, you're trying to build new relationships."

It was only a few years ago a social justice organization said that "black and brown people who live in Apex were in real danger from the people who are supposed to protect them."

That bold statement came in the wake of a scathing report looking into the Apex Police Department.

A third-party consulting company found in 2021 that a culture existed and was "being supported where officers were comfortable making comments that were blatantly racist and out of touch for serving a multiracial community."

"I think like everybody else I was frustrated and irritated," Evans said about the report.

Mayor Jacques Gilbert, who made history as the Town's first black mayor, says tremendous strides have been made since that report was first released.

There's been diversity training and a citizen's advisory committee. He feels things are moving in the right direction.

"I think Apex is resilient. We are going to continue to work together and that's what it's all about," said Gilbert. "We're going to focus on what we can continue to do together, grow together, learn from each other, and a positive change we're all looking for."

Apex became one of the Triangle's first municipalities to designate Juneteenth as a government holiday.

"I think we were two hours behind Raleigh, but the first town," said Gilbert.

These steps are leading Evans to feel much more welcomed, as the town works to live up to its motto as 'The Peak of Good Living' for all.

"I always felt comfortable, but I feel even more at home now," said Evans.

Apex's Juneteenth Celebration is going to be held outside of The Depot June 17th.

Check out more Juneteenth events happening in central North Carolina.