Meridian Star

Local News

June 13, 2012

Juneteenth Heritage Festival — more than a good time

MERIDIAN —     Meridian's annual Juneteenth Heritage Festival reaches its first milestone this week.

    A celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States, this year marks the 10th annual observance held in the city's historic African-American Business District.

    "We're celebrating African-American Emancipation Day, which is observed all across the United States – and beyond," said Louis Sutton, a Juneteenth Heritage Festival member.

    "This is not only about the freedom of our people, but also about America living out its true meaning – the land of the free," Sutton said.

    Originated in Galveston, Texas, in 1865, Juneteenth commemorates freedom as well as emphasizes education and achievement. Observances – a day, a week and in some areas a month – are often marked with celebrations, guest speakers, music, picnics and family gatherings.

    "While Juneteenth is usually a time of fun, it's also a time for reflection. A time for assessment, self improvement and for planning the future – for people of all races, nationalities and religions," Sutton said.

    This year's local celebration is scheduled for Saturday and will feature music, food and a play area for kids.

    The festival will begin with an opening ceremony that will include a proclamation presented by Mayor Cheri Barry. This will be followed with a program of gospel music featuring Brother Louis J & The Gospel Deliverers, Chris Evans & Purpose and The Sons of Faith.

    An evening of blues music featuring several artists will be the highlight of the Juneteenth Celebration. In previous years, the festival has featured "Old School" music acts such as The Bar-Kays, Lakeside, ConFunkShun and Brick. However, Sutton said organizers decided to "give the people what they want."

    "The blues is very popular in this area, and we've always had blues artists along with the Old School acts in the past," he said. "So this year, we're going to do an all-blues format."

    Headliners are Jacksonville, Fla., native Jeff Floyd ("Lock My Door," "Somebody Is Gonna Lose a Good Woman," "I Found Love") and "The Velvet Voice of Soul," Jackson native Vick Allen ("I'm Hooked" "Forbidden Love Affair" "I Need Some Attention"). Also performing will be Mississippi blues artists LaMorris Williams ("Pretty Lady" and "Happy," a duet with Al Green) and Stevie J. ( "Because of Me" and "Gotta Find a Good Woman.")

    Local blues artists Shai' Simone and Bobbi Doll will round out the evening's entertainment.

    The 10th Annual Juneteenth Heritage Festival is presented by Miller Lite and sponsors are Dr. Terry Jordan, Bucky's, Gloria's Tax Srvice, Meridian Cab Company, Phi Beta Sigma Inc. Fraternity and Meridian Airport Authority. Co-sponsors are city of Meridian, BankPlus, AT&T, Mississippi Power Company, Greater Meridian Health Clinic, KISS 104.1 Radio, Berry & Gardener Funeral Home, Lady Velvet Hair Products, WTOK-TV and WGBC-TV.

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