Juneteenth: Hope for a more unified future

Published 11:29 pm Saturday, June 17, 2023

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Natchez took its celebration of Juneteenth to new heights this year with the addition of the Legends Celebration, and we couldn’t be prouder of our community.

For many years, Natchezians have come together for the celebration of Juneteenth and, in the days preceding the holiday, unity throughout our community.

This year was no exception, as the traditional Unity Day tolling of the bells took place on June 14 in a call to unity. A well-attended, moving community-wide Unity Day service drew residents together to pray and reflect on the past and our future.

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This weekend, the mayor and city presented the Legends Celebration 2023: A Musical Tribute for Juneteenth. The celebration featured entertainers representing a wide range of Mississippi music, including gospel, blues, R&B and jazz, with performances by Dorothy Moore, YZ Ealey “The Blues Man,” Grammy winner Alvin Youngblood Hart, Alvin Shelby and the Legends Celebration Choir, as well as Mississippi’s International Musical Ambassador Ora Reed.

While we celebrate and commemorate, we also recognize that the foundation of Juneteenth is woven into the history of our community.

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States. Here in Natchez, we have learned to embrace and understand our complicated history and the fundamental role African Americans and enslaved people played in that history. Efforts to preserve that history, share it and celebrate it are vital to our present and our future. We’ve seen it in the development of a self-guided walking tour that highlights more than two dozen sites integral to the history of African Americans in Natchez and in the location of Freedom Trail markers in our community. We see it at places like Concord Quarters, a bed and breakfast and tour house that shares the story of African Americans as well as white homeowners. And we celebrate it in events like Juneteenth and the Legends concert.

And we pray that history will teach us to hope for a more unified future.