The executive director of the North Carolina Apple Festival has been criticized for a social media post calling June 16 a made-up holiday.
David Nicholson, a former Henderson County manager, has apologized after receiving backlash for a post he made after visiting a closed post office on Monday. He says he knew nothing about June 16, which is an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, enslaved blacks in Galveston, Texas were told they were free at last. The day has been celebrated by African Americans since the late 19th century.
The Facebook post, which has since been removed, read: “The post office is closed today for a made up holiday I’ve never heard of? When exactly is ‘Old Fat White Man Day’? I really want to celebrate this day.”
Last June, President Joe Biden declared June 16 a federal holiday for Americans to commemorate the end of slavery. Several local events were held this month in honor of the day.
“Seriously, I hadn’t heard of Juneteenth until yesterday,” Nicholson told the Times-News on Tuesday. “I tried to go to the post office but it was closed.”
Nicholson said he got home Monday and Googled “Why is the post office closed today?”
“When it came up, I tried to be sarcastic and posted the note on Facebook,” he said. “I certainly learned my lesson and a lot about June 16 in the past day.”
“As for the old fat white guy, I was just being sarcastic,” he said. “When I posted it, I had no idea what the holiday even was. Seriously, I had no idea.”
“…I certainly had no intention of hurting anyone. Realizing the importance to a lot of people, I immediately took it down,” he said.
On Tuesday afternoon, Nicholson posted a brief apology on Facebook.
“I’m sorry that I offended several people with my post yesterday. I tried to be sarcastic and I think it didn’t work. I apologize,” the post reads.
Crystal Cauley, local activist and founder of WNC’s Black Business Network, explained the meaning of the holiday and her feelings about Nicholson’s post.
“As I read it, I thought of ways to help him in a peaceful way,” she said in an email. “June 16 is the celebration we honor for the final end of enslavement of African Americans in Texas. Honoring a day that focuses on the end of something terrible like slavery is not something to be taken lightly…”
“…However, he was uncomfortable because the local post office was closed, so he turned to Facebook to spread the word, which wasn’t the sensible thing to do in a position representing the NC Apple Festival,” she said.
Others expressed frustration and disappointment with Cauley’s Facebook post addressing Nicholson’s comment.
“Mr. David Nicholson, sir, perhaps you should educate yourself on the actual events that led to June 16 being observed as a public holiday,” Brandon Maxwell said on Facebook. “Do your research before making comments like this, especially with the position you hold for a major event in the town of Hendersonville. Very unprofessional, ‘Old Fat White Men’ are celebrated daily. Most ‘Old Fat White Men’ have Success has been built by the individuals and their families for whom we celebrate this holiday!”
Former Hendersonville City Council candidate Raphael Morales also shared his take on social media.
“Honestly, I’m not surprised anymore. Just because of aging demographics, we share a space with people who probably haven’t heard or understand much about our current culture of parenting, fixing, healing, and growing. ‘ Morales said. “However, being the Executive Director of the NC Apple Festival to be so disrespectful is truly unacceptable. It’s not OK.”
Cauley and the Henderson County Black History Collective helped organize several events in Henderson County, where the Apple Festival is held each year to celebrate June 16th. These included a Juneteenth Freedom 2022 program on June 11 and a themed event at Hands On! Children’s Museum on June 18th.
This past weekend, the Hendersonville Farmers Market celebrated June 16th with activities, free food and learning experiences. The celebrations included guest speakers Andrew Aydin, who worked with the late Congressman John Lewis, and Mayor of Fletcher Preston Blakely.
In 2021, the Hendersonville City Council, through proclamation by Mayor Barbara Volk, declared June 19 to be “June Day” in the city.