Ninth Juneteenth celebration set for weekend

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 30, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; When Thelma Williams came to Natchez years ago, she wasn’t surprised to find a committee hard at work organizing a Juneteenth celebration for the Miss-Lou.

In fact, she was surprised that it had not been done before.

&uot;I grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana &045; basically, east Texas &045; and Texas is where it all started,&uot; said Williams, who became a committee member shortly after she arrived in Natchez.

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She was referring to the holiday that celebrates the anniversary of June 19, 1865 &045; the date Galveston, Texas slaves received word of the Emancipation Proclamation.

&uot;It wasn’t until after I went other places that I discovered there were places that didn’t have Juneteenth celebrations,&uot; she said with a laugh.

That’s why she has been proud to see Natchez’s Juneteenth event grow so much since its inception nine years ago.

This year’s event will be held today and Saturday.

At 7 p.m. at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center, Sankofa Fashions will host an African-American fashion show followed by the &uot;Taste of Soul,&uot; a tasting of soul food prepared by local chefs.

Tickets for that event cost $5 and may be purchased at the Visitor Center.

Saturday’s events begin at 10:30 a.m. with a memorial walk starting at the Forks of the Road former slave market site at Liberty Road and D’Evereux Drive and ending at the antebellum house Melrose.

Then, from noon to 7 p.m. at Melrose, the annual Juneteenth Family Fun Day will be held.

That event will include children’s activities, tours, and performances by local choirs and blues guitarist Jessie Robinson and the Knee Deep Band of Jackson.

&uot;But there will also be more hip-hop and more R&B this year &045; a wider variety of music,&uot; said Royal Hill who, along with James West, serves as an organizer of the event. &uot;It’ll be more local entertainment and a different lineup.&uot;

Proceeds from the event will go to purchase a state historic marker for St. John United Methodist Church, a historic church located on Martin Luther King Jr. Street.

Marking Juneteenth is important for many reasons, Hill said.

&uot;It’s an educational experience for our youth, so they can understand what our ancestors had to go through,&uot; Hill said. &uot;It gives them an awareness of our heritage. Š And it can be part of the healing process.&uot;

It also boosts tourism &045; or, as Hill put it, &uot;gives us a chance to put more heads on beds.&uot;