UNITY DAY: The future is bright in Natchez

Published 2:00 pm Sunday, June 19, 2022

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Special to The Natchez Democrat


NATCHEZ — The 3rd Annual Natchez Day of Unity celebration kicked off Juneteenth’s week full of events on Tuesday.

Annually held at the Bandstand on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, the Unity Day celebration was relocated indoors due to a heat advisory. It was hosted at First Presbyterian Church on Pearl Street in Downtown Natchez by the invitation of the Rev. Joan Gandy.

Caroline Curtis Deason was emcee for the event. Her late husband, the Rev. Kevin Deason of New Direction Outreach Ministries, was honored with a key to the city in 2020 by Day of Unity host Dan M. Gibson, mayor of the City of Natchez.

Gibson opened the ceremony with a message of “Unity in our Community.” Gibson quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

He went on to say community and unity are the keys to future success in Natchez.

Alderwoman Sarah Carter Smith sang the National Anthem followed by Alderwoman Valencia Hall leading the Pledge of Allegiance.

Bishop Stanley Searcy of New Hope The Vision Center opened with prayer with a moving call to unity, diversity and love.

Gandy followed with a word of truth from Zechariah Chapter 8, verses 4 and 16.  The Rev. Clifton Marvel of Macedonia Baptist Church provided a rousing mini-sermon, bringing laughter, self-reflection and ultimately applause from the audience.

Recently appointed Poet Laureate for the City of Natchez, Mark LaFrancis, shared a poem, written especially for the Unity Day Celebration, titled, “Our Hands”

“…Once shackled, now free, once armed, now peaceful, once downtrodden, now proud, once oppressed, now strong, our hands, they heal, they lead, they create…”

Fields and Gibson led the crowd in a rendition of “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”

In the spirit of diversity and inclusivity, Beau Baumgardner, president of the Jewish Congregation of Temple B’Nai Israel, closed the day with a prayer for unity, stating, “Bless us with the recognition that we can disagree without becoming disagreeable, that we can battle ideas, without battling each other.”