Juneteeth celebration has plenty to do June 11-19

Published 12:01 am Saturday, June 9, 2018

NATCHEZ — “Juneteenth” may have originated from a single day in history, but time has transformed June 19, 1865, into a multi-day celebration in Natchez.

In conjunction with New Direction Ministries, the Natchez Juneteenth Heritage and Culture Foundation has worked with several sponsors in the city to organize the inaugural Natchez Juneteenth celebration — a stream of educational, spiritual and entertaining events that begin Monday and will end June 19.

When President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, it did not seem to reach the estimated 250,000 enslaved people in Texas until a Union Army general, Gordon Granger, made a public announcement of it in Galveston two years later on June 19.

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Darrell White, the director of Culture and Heritage Tourism of Visit Natchez, said slavery still “unofficially” existed in the South for years after the public emancipation.

“June 19, 1865, has been recognized by many as the last official day of government-sanctioned enslavement,” he said, “but the vestiges of slavery continued long after.”

No exact day exists that historians can say slavery ended, White said, but they can utilize the day as a teaching tool for future generations.

Instead of a calendar-marked holiday of an isolated incident, White said Natchez Juneteenth is a day of remembrance, acknowledgment and a teachable opportunity for every race and color.

“Today, (Juneteenth) is a vehicle of celebration and remembrance of sacrifices made by the enslaved in the building of this nation,” he said. “These festivities are not restricted to the African-American community. We use them as a tool for learning. … All people are invited to take part.”

The pastor and founder of New Direction Ministries, the Rev. Kevin Deason, said he believes it is time for Natchez to unite in the Juneteenth celebration and not be racially divided.

“It is important for we as a society to come together and to recognize that we are all part of each other,” Deason said. “I just want us all to come together, all races, all colors and all members of society to celebrate freedom.”

Treasurer and event coordinator Jarita Frazier said Juneteenth is about more than one race or color, and thanked the entire community for the support.

“It’s a way to celebrate each other and (African-American) culture, but it’s not just for the African-American community,” Frazier said. “It’s for the entire city of Natchez. … We’d like to thank the city of Natchez and all of our sponsors …”

Here is a list of events for Natchez Juneteenth:

Opening Ceremony

A community welcome and prayer will begin at 5 p.m. Monday at Forks of the Road, located at 199 St. Catherine St. This will be followed by a community mixer event at 5:30 p.m. with refreshments, during which volunteers can sign up and receive a breakdown of the week’s activities.

Community Cleanup

Volunteers will pick up trash throughout neighborhoods at St. Catherine Street, Minor Street and Woodlawn Avenue from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesday. Volunteers sign up at the community mixer and determine where to meet in advance.

Youth Day

Youth from ages seven to 17 are invited to “K4CMusic” and financial literacy workshops from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday  at New Direction Worship Center at 306 Oak St. Lunch will be provided as the youth learn to sing and dance to K4CMusic and learn how to save and budget their allowance — an upbeat Christian-rap genre. A K4CMusic concert will commence at 7 p.m. at the center, where the youth can show what they’ve learned.

Senior Citizens Day

A heritage cooking class will teach seniors how to cook nutritious meals starting at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Natchez Senior Citizen Center

The following evening, the Miss Juneteenth Pageant will be at 6 p.m. at the Natchez High School auditorium. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door. Proceeds will contribute to a scholarship fund for winning participants.

Networking Mixer and Karaoke on the Bluff

Karaoke night on the Natchez Bluff will be from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday where local businesses are invited to hold promotional activities for a $5 donation to the Natchez Juneteenth Heritage Culture Foundation. This will be followed by a presentation of six community awards for individuals in the community.

Family Day on the Bluff

Saturday, June 16, has a sequence of events to memorialize events that bred the Juneteenth celebration.

A freedom walk from Forks of the Road to Martin Luther King Jr. Street will begin at 8 a.m. A children’s market will be from 10 a.m. to noon at the Martin Luther King Jr. Triangle where children of all ages can set up vending booths with food or crafts of their own creation with their parent or guardian’s supervision. Registration is free. To register, call Frazier at 601-807-1008.

A family day is scheduled from noon to 10 p.m. in a closed section of Broadway Street and consists of a variety of activates for all ages.

Locals have revamped their wheels for a car, truck and bike show lining the streets of the bluff during the event.

A backyard barbecue cook-off challenge will begin at noon on the bluff, and entry is $200 for a team of three to five people. Teams will receive an additional booth for vending and food sales.

Live entertainment from local gospel and blues artists will begin at 6 p.m.

Individual tickets are $5 for children under 14, $10 for adults and can be purchased at etix.com or at the gate. Families of five or more can pay $25 total at the gate. Children under 5 years old attend for free.

Juneteenth Memorial

Juneteenth memorial church services start at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 17, in New Direction Worship Center and will be led by the Rev. Kevin Deason.

Love and Laughter

The love and laughter comedy show begins at 7 p.m. Sunday, June 17, in the Natchez City Auditorium, where comedian Jashad “Shaddy Feel Good” McCoy, Quenton “Comedian Q” Coleman and Red Grant will entertain guests with a stand-up show. The host and Natchez native Delvie Gales and local blues musician Emerson Hill will also entertain guests in the Juneteenth and Father’s Day celebration. Tickets start at $30 each and can be purchased at etix.com.

Growing Your Dollars

A community workshop for business entrepreneurs begins at 6 p.m. Monday, June 18, at Forks of the Road.

Juneteenth Celebration

A spiritual libations ceremony will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 19, on the official Juneteenth day at Forks of the Road.

For more information regarding Juneteenth events, contact Frazier at 601-807-1008.