Junteenth Festival celebrates community and unity – The Oxford Eagle

Members of the Oxford community gathered on Saturday to celebrate June 17, honoring the achievements of the black community and the significance of black history in Oxford and Lafayette County. The celebration, which took place in the parking lot of Oxford Middle School on Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, was the culmination of a weeklong festival in June.

Although Juneteenth has been celebrated across the United States since 1866, the holiday, which originated in Texas and commemorates the emancipation of slaves, was declared a federal holiday by President Biden last week.

“Juneteenth is a celebration of black excellence, supporting local businesses, black-owned businesses and simply full networking,†said Michael Carter, artist and salesperson at the event.

Oxford’s first Juneteenth celebration began 12 years ago as a neighborhood barbecue and block party hosted by residents along Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and surrounding areas; since then, the celebration has expanded to include a weeklong festival, including Linen on the Lawn, an event organized in conjunction with the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council on June 12, with live music in the plaza town hall and double-decker bus tours showcasing the dark history in Lafayette County.

“Really, the whole point of our Juneteenth festival is to celebrate our community and to encourage neighbors and citizens who don’t normally interact with each other to find that this is a place where you can meet someone. that you had never known in Oxford, “said Kesha Howell. -Atkinson, city councilor and chairman of the board of directors of Juneteenth, which plans and runs the festival, said. “This is a major community event for me, and I think I can say the same for the Juneteenth board of directors.”

The festival featured several black artists such as Carter, as well as live music and a number of other vendors and community organizations, including the Oxford Community Market, the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department and the Democrats of the Lafayette County.

Vendor Allen “JJ” Jones, whose work has been featured at companies such as Lost Dog Coffee and Fergndan’s Pizza through his company Woodshed by JJ, said he was excited to be attending the festival to promote the unity in the community.

“It’s to show everyone, no matter who you are,†Jones said. “It’s a bit like putting salt and pepper on a plate and trying to separate them, it doesn’t work that way, we all need to get along. We are all of the same blood. I just think it’s important to recognize the past and be done with it, so that we can move forward.

Looking ahead, vendors and visitors alike say they hope to see the festival continue to grow in the future.

“It’s good to see everyone networked, white and black,†Carter said. “The mayor came out, which was a good thing. Now that we have this as an official holiday, I hope to continue like this. “

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