Black Unity events planned for Juneteenth weekend here
Published 11:00 am Friday, May 6, 2022
NATCHEZ — An event known as “Gathering of the Great Armies” Juneteenth National Black Unity Convention is scheduled June 17 through 19, parts of which will take place in Brookhaven, Jackson and Natchez.
Nick Bezzel, who is founder of the Elmer Geronimo Pratt Gun Club based in Austin, Texas, said for Natchez, the group plans to hold a town hall meeting on June 17 at a yet to be determined location, and on June 19, will gather at the Devil’s Punch Bowl to remember and pay homage to the former enslaved people who died there.
“We have an extensive list of things we plan on doing Juneteenth weekend,” Bezzel said. “Our plan is to continuously go to different locations where certain atrocities occurred that affected Black people.”
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Bezzel said the Devil’s Punch Bowl, located on Cemetery Road past the Natchez City Cemetery, was the site of a concentration camp where 20,000 newly freed people were left to die.
“This is one of our ways to bring these things to light, to make sure people are aware of what happened and to pay our respects to the people who died there, a way to honor these people who lost their lives there,” he said.
The events taking place in Mississippi will also include a meeting of rival street tribes, also known as gangs, which he said will end with the groups agreeing on a peace treaty.
“We understand some things are taking place in Mississippi communities and we will address those by having these groups to come together, air their grievances in a peaceful manner and in the end agree to a peace treaty,” Bezzel said. “Our aim is to get these street tribes to stop the violence toward one another and then to help these groups move forward in a different direction.”
Much of the crime that takes place in any community is typically rooted in economic impoverishment.
“People who commit crimes typically lack the finances to live a decent life. They turn to the streets to make money, which typically leads to violence,” he said. “What we can do is find ways to employ these street tribe members so we can reduce the amount of violence that takes place.”
He said different organizations throughout Mississippi have been working to arrange this sit-down meeting among street tribe leadership in Jackson on June 18 from noon to 8 p.m.
“These organizations have been able to reach out to the street tribes and they have confirmed they have agreed to come together. We plan to leave with a cease fire and come together with a treaty that will greatly curb the violence that you see as well as empower them economically,” Bezzel said.
Several groups have partnered with the Elmer Geronimo Pratt Gun Club to put together the weekend’s events in Mississippi, including the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, Mississippi on the Move, Youth Against Gang Activity, New Black Panther Party, Anubis and the Black Liberation Movement.
More information about the Juneteenth events in Mississippi can be found at egpgunclub.com. That website includes an email address for Bezzel and a phone number for those who need more information.
He said he expects about 1,000 people from outside Mississippi to come to the events, including those in Natchez. Most of them will be armed, he said.
“I think you have to understand that the second amendment is there to protect our first amendment rights,” Bezzel said. “The first amendment gives us the right to peacefully assemble. The second amendment protects us from infringement.
“What we have seen is, like in Minneapolis after the George Floyd murder, protestors would go out to peacefully protest — they had their hands up and said, ‘Don’t shoot!’ More times than not, there would wind up being a physical altercation brought on by law enforcement who would do things like fire rubber bullets at the protestors. We became an armed buffer between the protestors and the police. When we have done so, not a single incident has occurred to those protestors.
“We also think there is a negative stigma against Black people holding firearms. If people see a white person holding a gun, they think that person is a patriot, but if they see Black people with firearms, they assume they are up to no good. The second part (of arming ourselves publically) is showing Black people in a positive light with firearms. It helps to diminish those stereotypes and stigmas people have with seeing Black people with guns,” Bezzel said.
After the remembrance service on Sunday at the Devil’s Punch Bowl, the group will move to Broadmoor Park at 2 p.m. for a Juneteenth celebration. That will involve food and drink vendors, a jumpy house and other activities for children.
“We are trying to create a family atmosphere and bring together groups that don’t typically associate with each other,” he said.
The Black Unity Convention will begin in Brookhaven on Friday at 1 p.m. where Bezzel said the group will support D’Monterrio Gibson, the FedEx driver who was chased and fired upon by white residents there, as he holds a press conference. The location of that press conference has yet to be finalized.
“We want to make sure people understand that when we come to these places, we are coming to unify people. We are coming as a sign of solidarity. We want to build solidarity with these communities,” Bezzel said. “Anyplace we have ever been, there have been no acts of violence of any tension. People may think gun clubs coming into the area are coming to start trouble, but we always show respect to the people there. And the economic impact we have when we come to these places is very positive. We are able to inject finances where they are needed.”