Juneteenth events underway in Memphis

Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 11:09 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - At Health Sciences Park in the Medical District Friday night, it was a Memphis Juneteenth festival unlike any other.

“We stand here today celebrating Juneteenth and that liberation. And we’re doing it collectively and inclusively,” said Memphian, author, and life coach, Mario Nolan-Dillard

Twenty-four hours earlier, President Joe Biden signed the bill making Juneteenth, the commemoration of the end of slavery, a federal holiday.

“Love, love, love! Thank you President Biden. Thank you so much,” said festival organizer Telisa Franklin. “Thank you for answering so many people. Some have passed on, but they said one day they want people to recognize Juneteenth.”

This is the 28th Memphis Juneteenth Festival. It offers educational materials about Juneteenth and other important events in black history. There’s great food and fantastic music. You can find unique products from black vendors, like Cynthia Johnson, who sells potpourri, lotions, and body scrubs made from her grandmother’s recipes from Jamaica.

“We need hope,” said Johnson about celebrating Juneteenth. “And we need to see things are changing. And I think the mood of the country is being lifted. So, this is a sea of change.”

Other Juneteenth events in Memphis taking place Saturday, June 19, which is the official day to observe the holiday, include the Juneteenth Shop Black Festival at Fourth Bluff Park starting at 11 a.m.

Slave Haven Museum will have special musical performances and dramatic readings.

The National Civil Rights Museum will host a virtual celebration, including a presentation on the evolution of being black in America.

Back at Health Sciences Park, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s statue and remains are now gone. The sea of change has arrived with an important reminder:

“If we don’t learn from our history,” said Nolan-Dillard, “we are doomed to repeat it.”

The Memphis Juneteenth Festival will run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday. It’s free and open to everyone.

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