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African-Cuban dance and drum celebration is this weekend

NATCHEZ — An African-Cuban dance and drum celebration will take place Friday and Saturday to celebrate the historic Forks of the Road site becoming part of the National Park Service.

Kathryn McCabe, owner of the EPYK Natchez event space at 515 Main St., is organizing the event with help from a grant sponsored by Visit Natchez, McCabe said.

The celebration includes a series of performances and dance classes featuring Andrea Peoples, a seasoned African, Afro Cuban and Dunham Technique dancer and choreographer, McCabe said.

Forks of the Road, located where Liberty Road intersects with St. Catherine Street and Devereux Drive, was once one of the largest slave trading post in the nation.

The property is in the process of being transferred from the City of Natchez to the National Park Service to develop the area and commemorate its historic significance.

McCabe said she previously wanted to host an educational dance and drum class at a public school before in-person school events were canceled due to COVID-19.

Ser Seshs Ab Heter-C.M. Boxley, a long time advocate for the transfer of Forks of the Road to the park service, instead requested a ritual dance at Forks of the Road to celebrate its becoming a national park in the months ahead, McCabe said.

The celebration will begin at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Dec. 4, at the Forks of Road, 232 St. Catherine Street.

In addition to the Celebration at the Forks of the Road, EPYK Natchez is hosting a “Deck the Bar” holiday showcase beginning at 5 p.m. Friday followed by a 8:45 p.m. Afro Cuban Dance Performance at EPYK Natchez, 515 Main Street.

The festivities continue Saturday with the holiday market from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and a family friendly mixed level dance class at 11 a.m. outside in the EPYK Natchez courtyard.

Peoples will close out the festivities with an AfroXotica night dance class at 9:30 p.m. Saturday followed by a DJ dance party at EPYK Natchez, McCabe said.

The holiday market includes vendors selling food, jewelry, custom make-up and art, she said.

Traveling chef Cheryl Bowman, who specializes in a “Big Easy” and authentic Cajun experience, will have a menu of shrimp and grits, jambalaya and vegan options, Bowman said.

More vendors include Samantha Hayes with baked goods; Rashonda Brown with handmade waist beads and African, Indian and Tibetan jewelry; and LaShanda Dawson with custom make-up for sale.

All dance classes and performances are free. However, donations to the performers will be accepted to encourage them to return to Natchez, McCabe said.

Masks are required at each event and class sizes are limited to meet social distancing guidelines. For more information, or to secure a spot call 601-861-1254 or email info@epyknatchez.com.

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