Week-long Juneteenth celebration starts Monday

Published 7:00 am Saturday, June 12, 2021

NATCHEZ — In 2018, the late Rev. Kevin Deason of New Direction Outreach Ministries helped organize a multi-day Juneteenth celebration in Natchez in hopes of bringing people of all races and ethnic groups together.

He died with cancer in November 2019, however, many in the Natchez community have come together to carry the torch of a tradition he helped spread.

“We are so excited about Juneteenth celebration week 2021,” said Jessica Hawkins, the community liaison for the City of Natchez. “There are a lot of amazing events and activities for our community — our adults, our youth and our seniors. Everyone can participate.”

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Hawkins said Juneteenth is actually considered to be one of the longest running African American holidays.

The holiday, which originated in Galveston, Texas, celebrates the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States. It marks the anniversary of the June 19, 1865, announcement of General Order No. 3 by Union Army general Gordon Granger, proclaiming freedom from slavery. Today, the holiday is widely celebrated nation-wide.

This year’s annual Juneteenth Festival in Natchez is a week-long celebration starting June 14 through 20. Below is a list of what is planned in Natchez for Juneteenth 2021.

Day of Unity

Monday, June 14, is the second annual Day of Unity for the City of Natchez. Day of Unity began in 2020 with a resolution adopted by the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen for the purpose of reminding people to combat racial inequities and injustice in the country and seek unity among diverse groups in the community.

This year, the city will celebrate beginning with a citywide ringing of church bells at 5 p.m. and finish with a Unity Day ceremony at the Natchez Convention Center’s Nashville Room. At 5:30 p.m. The event is free and open to all.

“Now is the time to be proud of where we live and the advancements we have made, who we are and what the future looks like for our children and grandchildren,” Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said in a statement about the Day of Unity. “We have the opportunity to exhibit what unity really means.”

Etiquette Classes at Concord Quarters

Concord Quarters at 301 Gayosa Ave. is hosting etiquette classes from June 15 through 16 for children ages 11 to 17. Clases last from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on June 15, and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 16 and will finish with an etiquette party with “Sunday best” attire.

Tickets are $35 each and can be purchased online at cocordquarters.com/specialevents.

Juneteenth Kickback at NAPAC

The “Juneteenth Kickback at NAPAC,” at the Natchez museum of African American History and Culture, starts at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 17, and will feature a history of Juneteenth, awards ceremony, historic re-enactments, food, live jazz music, art and poetry, a tour of the museum and more. This event is also free, however, reservations must be made. To reserve a spot, contact Jessica Hawkins at 601-445-7555 or email jhawkins@natchez.ms.us.

Forks of the Road land donation

The City of Natchez is also celebrating history with a donation of historic property to the National Park Service for their preservation and development efforts.

The Forks of the Road land donation has been a years-long process. While NPS continues to seek privately owned property at the Forks of the Road site, the donation of 2.86 acres of city-owned property will finally conclude with a ceremony at 11 a.m. Friday, June 18, at 232 St. Catherine St.

Juneteenth Community Clean Up

The “Juneteenth Community Clean Up” event will take place starting at 3 p.m. Friday, June 18, on Martin Luther King Jr. Street, where volunteers will begin picking up litter. Those who want to volunteer should call 601-445-7555 or email Hawkins at jhawkins@natchez.ms.us.

Soul Food Fusion Festival

The “Soul Food Fusion Festival” organized by Southwest Wellness Association and Natchez Heritage School of Cooking kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday night at Crooked Letter Picture Company at 101 High St. with the three B’s: barbecue, brews and live blues music.

The main event of the Soul Food Fusion Festival begins at 6 p.m. Saturday at the 500 block of Commerce Street and will feature live music, contests and famous Natchez soul food cuisine.

Sunday’s wind-down event will be a Lazy Magnolia Brunch held at Concord Quarters, 301 Gayosa, Natchez, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The brunch will feature food prepared by King and bottomless mimosas. Tickets to Friday and Saturday’s events are $30 each and tickets to Sunday’s brunch are $25 each.

Tickets and more information are available online at BonTempsTix.com or at facebook.com/soulfoodfusionfestntz. Tickets may also be purchased at the door for each of the events.

Fitness on the Bluff

On Saturday, June 19, LaTarsha Blanton of Loaded Flower and Bella-Rouge Healthcare Inc. of Natchez are promoting fitness and wellness on the Natchez bluff. “Fitness on the Bluff” starts at 8 a.m. at Broadway and Madison streets, led by Blanton. This event is followed by the “Well Man Health Fair” at 10 a.m., which is a health and wellness workshop catered to men in honor of Father’s Day.

Juneteenth Family Fest and NAACP Parade

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 19, food, games, a variety of pop-up vendors and live entertainment will occupy the Natchez bluff for the Juneteenth Family Fest. The event is free for all to attend. The annual Juneteenth parade organized by the NAACP will begin at 3 p.m. on the bluff. The parade line-up starts at 2 p.m., member Jaqueline Marsaw said.

Sunday Funday

More activities continue at “Sunday Funday” which starts at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 20, at North Natchez Park. This event also includes food, games music, water fun, sports and more and is free and open to the public.