‘I LIVE IN HISTORY’: Local champions of African American history, culture honored at Juneteenth celebration

Published 2:24 pm Monday, June 19, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Individuals dedicated to the preservation of African American history and heritage were honored during a Juneteenth kickoff event, “Kickback at NAPAC,” Thursday night at the Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture on Main Street.

In a packed room of the museum, attendees sang along and clapped to musical performances by special guest singer Montrell Greene.

Between songs, Keys to the City were presented to several honorees by Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson and Natchez aldermen Valencia Hall and Ben Davis.

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The founders of the Natchez Association for the Preservation of African American History and Culture (NAPAC) were the first to be honored, and surviving members sat in the front row.

One of them was Josie Gilchrist Camper, who offered a brief history of the establishment of the museum and fulfillment of the late Judge Mary Lee Toles’ vision.

“For my people lending their strengths to the years, to the gone years and the now years and the maybe years, washing, ironing, cooking, sewing, hoeing, mending, plowing, pruning, patching and dragging along, never gaining, never knowing and never understanding. Judge Toles said that’s exactly what she wanted to help us do, understand our history,” Camper said. Other honorees included Rev. David Green Jr. of God’s Way Baptist Church; Debbie and Greg Cosey, who own the historic slave quarters known as Concord Quarters; and Diana Nutter and staff of the WMIS and WTYJ radio stations — also referred to as the “voice and ear of the Black community,” according to Gibson in his official city proclamation.

Nutter seemed at a loss for words while receiving the award.

“I can’t,” she said when asked by Gibson to share a few words. “Thank you. This is a miracle. It has been difficult.”

Gibson said Nutter and her family “poured their lives” into the community through the stations for over 80 years until selling them to Malcolm Inniss of New Vision Broadcasting LLC in 2021.

Cosey, too, said she felt “overwhelmed” after being surprised with a Key to the City for both herself and her husband.

“I live in history,” she said. “Gregory and I live in history. We do live in a former slave dwelling. … Please come and let me share the many stories of the 124 enslaved African American men, women and children that were part of that plantation. … Natchez is a place of healing of the ugly past, reclaimed for a better purpose.”