The Mecklenburg Black Republican Club (MBRC) in collaboration with the NCGOP Black Conservative Voices Coalition held their inaugural “Juneteenth Freedom Celebration” at Freedom House Church in Charlotte June 20.    

The star-studded event lineup featured renowned neurosurgeon and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Dr. Ben Carson, N.C. Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, famed Civil Rights leader Clarence Henderson, and U.S. Senate candidate and Congressman Ted Budd, among others.  

Major themes during the event centered on the history and importance of Juneteenth and the crucial role Republicans played in ensuring freedom for African Americans in the wake of the Civil War.   

In warning people not to get lost in the “popular culture shuffle,” Robinson emphasized the role of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which constitutionally and legally prohibits slavery in the United States.

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson addresses the crowd at Freedom House Church. Image by Zach Rounceville for CJ.

“If you know what Juneteenth is, but you don’t know what the 13th Amendment to the Constitution is, that is like knowing your nickname without knowing your real name,” he told the audience.  

World renowned neurosurgeon and former HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson focused on the greatness of America in the face of detractors, listing the valuable contributions of black Americans throughout U.S. history: such as Jan Matzeliger, who invented the automatic shoe-lasting machine; Charles Brooks, inventor of the first self-propelled street sweeper; Frederick Jones, inventor of the mobile refrigeration system for trucks; Garrett Morgan, inventor of the traffic signal and gas mask; Henrietta Bradberry, inventor of the torpedo firing mechanism used in submarines; Madam C.J. Walker, inventor of a line of cosmetic products for women of dark complexion; and Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, who performed the first successful open heart surgical procedure in the world.

Carson himself was the first neurosurgeon in history to successfully perform the separation of conjoined twins. A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and author of several books, he was also a Republican candidate for president of the United States in 2016.  

In a statement provided to Carolina Journal, Carson said he was grateful for the opportunity to speak at the event.

“It was an honor to speak at the Juneteenth event hosted by the Mecklenburg Black Republican Club and NCGOP Black Conservative Voices,” Carson said. “The event had great speakers like Lt. Governor Mark Robinson and future Senator Ted Budd. I appreciate them letting me share my personal story and the great work that is being done at the American Cornerstone Institute which promotes faith, liberty, community and life.”  

Several awards were also given to event speakers by MBRC. Lt. Gov. Robinson was given the Trail Blazer Award, Civil Rights leader Clarence Henderson was given the Legacy Award, and Dr. Carson was given the Image Award for their commitments, dedication, and impact toward conservative causes and values.  

The driving force behind the event was the MBRC. The club was created nearly four years ago in order to encourage an increasing number of black Americans with conservative values to vote Republican. Kimberly Marshall, who serves as the club’s chairwoman, spoke with CJ after the event and thought it was a resounding success.

“The event was really a labor of love,” Marshall said. “We had been working on it for the better part of a year. For it to come together like it did was incredible. The venue was phenomenal, with incredible service from the staff and the pastor. They made us really feel welcomed. After seeing and being a part of the event, I really believe the black conservative movement is growing. The event was indicative of the movement not only in the black community but in a lot of minority communities.” 

MBRC worked in conjunction with the NCGOP Black Conservative Voices Coalition in putting the event together. Per the Coalition’s website, their mission is to bring together members of the black community in North Carolina to support conservative policies and elect conservative policymakers in order to bring greater economic opportunity, safer communities, more school choice options, and better healthcare policies for generations to come.

Addul Ali serves as chairman of the coalition and is also chair of the Cabarrus County Republican Party. Ali believes the event has made a lasting impression.

“I thought it was amazing event, and I’m proud of the Mecklenburg Black Republican Club for taking the lead and putting it on,” Ali told CJ after the event. “I think it’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of us making an impact in Mecklenburg County.” 

Here Ali (left) is pictured with Marshall of MBRC and Ben Carson. Image provided by Addul Ali.

Mecklenburg County’s Republican party is chaired by Sarah Reidy-Jones, who praised MBRC for their efforts in educating people about the holiday and its importance.

“I’m glad to see the MBRC take the lead on explaining why Juneteenth matters and how it is important to celebrate the role that Republicans played,” Reidy-Jones told CJ. “I look forward to this becoming an annual outreach event in our Charlotte area community with the full support of the MeckGOP. It is important that we bring in leaders that better define why Juneteenth is our national holiday to celebrate as Republicans.” 

NCGOP Chairman Michael Whatley was also present and told CJ he is particularly proud of the outreach and political involvement of black Republicans throughout the state. He thought the event was a showcase of those efforts.

Here Whatley (center left) is pictured with Ali, Carson, and Marshall. Image provided by Addul Ali.

“We could not have had a better event,” he said. “I think it shows the strength of black Republicans here in North Carolina and the fact that we have more black county chairs, more black district chairs, and more black executive committee members than any other state. We really feel very good about the contributions of the black community in our party along with the contributions of our volunteers and organizations.” 

Juneteenth is a newly created federal holiday commemorating the emancipation of the last enslaved African Americans in the South. The event marks the anniversary of June 19, 1865, when Union Army General Gordon Granger announced General Order No. 3. The order proclaimed freedom for black slaves in Texas, many of whom had been kept from hearing about President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation more than two years earlier.