Juneteenth – A celebration for all of us

Published 3:15 pm Thursday, June 10, 2021

I will never forget the first time I heard about Juneteenth. My friend and pastor, the late Bishop Dr. Kevin Deason, was inviting our church, New Direction Outreach Ministries, to participate in this important event. Being from Texas, Kevin knew the importance of Juneteenth, and his passion to see it properly observed in Natchez is being lived out today.

The story of Juneteenth really goes back to September 22, 1862, when President Abraham Lincoln issued a presidential proclamation that would forever change history and ensure freedom for millions of Americans: The Emancipation Proclamation. Signed during wartime, sadly the scourge of slavery continued to exist for two and half more years until the war finally ended. And for those in remote regions of our country, freedom was even slower to arrive.

On June 19, 1865 at the corners of Strand Street and 22nd Street in Galveston, Texas, Union soldiers under the commission of Union Major General Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3 proclaiming all enslaved people of Texas to be free. Today, we celebrate this historic moment during Juneteenth. June 19 is a Day of Independence for millions of African Americans in this country, and it should be given its due.

In keeping with the significance of this historic event, we are celebrating Juneteenth in Grand Natchez Style, and we have a week full of fun and exciting events planned!

The celebrations will kick- off with our annual Natchez Day of Unity ceremony on Monday, June 14th at 5:30 p.m. at the Natchez Convention Center where messages of hope and love will be shared, along with refreshments. I am excited about this event! Our special guest will be Natchez Legend YZ Ealey – YZ and I will be having a conversation about peace and unity in our community!

Other events throughout the week will include etiquette classes at Concord Quarters, along with a Sunday brunch. On Thursday, NAPAC will host the “Juneteenth Kickback” where there will be tours, history presentations, food, live poetry, live jazz, an art contest, a historic re-enactment led by Jeremy Houston, and much more. We will have a community clean- up on Friday at 3:00 p.m.   Also on Friday evening, the Southwest Wellness Association will host “BBQ, Blues, and Brews” at Film Natchez.

The weekend is jam- packed with events beginning at 8:00 a.m. Saturday morning with “Fitness on the Bluff” led by LaTarsha Blanton and hosted by Loaded Flower.   At 10 a.m. Saturday, Bella- Rouge Healthcare will have a Well Men Health Fair. Starting at 11:00 a.m., the Juneteenth Family Fest will take place on the bluff with food, games, entertainment, vendors, and more followed by the Juneteenth Parade at 3:00 p.m. Saturday evening at 6:00 p.m. Southwest Wellness Association and Natchez Heritage School of Cooking will host the “Soul Food Fusion Festival”. The weekend will be capped off at “Sunday Fun Day” with food, music, sports, and water fun at North Natchez Park from 2:00- 7:00 p.m.

An event I am especially excited about will take place on Friday, and it has been a long time in the making. At 11:00 a.m., we will hold a ceremony at the site of the Forks of the Road. We will be welcoming local, state, and federal officials. There we will officially sign over deeds of city owned properties to the National Park Service to begin the process of this most important endeavor, making Forks of the Road a part of the Natchez National Historical Park!

Get ready Natchez – a wonderful week awaits. Juneteenth is truly a celebration for all!