Relaxing underneath the canopy of a shade tree, revelers listen as music reverberates from the stage at last year’s Juneteenth Urban Music Festival in historic Robert R. Church Park.

By Wiley Henry

MEMPHIS, TN — When history and culture converge at the historic Robert R. Church Park in downtown Memphis June 14-16, revelers on the ground will experience the best that the Juneteenth Urban Music Festival has to offer. 

“We’re working hard to bring Memphis the best in music, food and entertainment,” said Telisa Franklin, the festival’s president/CEO. “We’re expecting somewhere around 40,000 people to attend the three-day festival.”

Memphis is ripe for such a festival as Juneteenth, where children, adults and entire families come together to support one of Memphis’ longest running African American festivals – now celebrating 27 consecutive years of fun and excitement.

“The festival is a staple in Memphis,” said Franklin. “Festivalgoers can look forward to another year of eclectic music, choirs, entertainment, arts and crafts, food vendors, majorettes, dancers, steppers, cheerleaders, a car and bike show, activities for seniors and kids and more.” 

An estimated 40,000 people are expected to revel in the park during the three-day festival. Photos by Lakendrex McNeil

The artists line-up for the weekend include the Tennessee Mass Choir, Pam Armour and The Memphis Shop, Courtney Little, Wendell Weathers & Greater Purpose, the Disciples of Mime, Tabitha Adams, Brandon Lewis, Sherry Self, Diamond Praise Dance Company, Donte Everhart & End Time Movement, Hope Church, and many more.

The festival is open to the public.

Prior to the three-day festival, festivalgoers can look forward to the Juneteenth Career and Health Fair Expo on Tuesday, June 11, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at J.I.F.F., 254 S. Lauderdale St. Job seekers will get an opportunity to talk to dozens of potential employers. 

“We advise job seekers to bring their resumes and dress for success,” said Franklin. “This year the Shelby County Reentry Program will provide assistance to help felons. We just want to provide a service for those who are having a hard time.”

In addition to the Juneteenth Career and Health Fair Expo, attendees can look forward to the Memphis Juneteenth Lifetime Achievement Awards on Thursday, June 13, at the Holiday Inn University of Memphis, 3700 Central Ave.

The awards program will begin at 7 p.m. and include dinner and an original play, “I Know Who I Am,” written by local playwright Dr. Sharli Kay Adair, Juneteenth’s director of operations. 

The honorees include The Rev. Ricky Floyd, pastor of Pursuit of God Transformation Center; Sheila Whalum, first lady of New Olivet Baptist Church; Gina Y. Sweat, director of Memphis Fire Services; Bishop Wesley J. Arije, Presiding Bishop and Chief Apostle of the March of Faith International Fellowship, Inc.; Vincent Tharpe & Kenosis; Shania Brown, a young filmmaker, producer and actress; Stanley Smith of Erole’s Expose Modeling Agency; Felecia Bean Barnes of Felicia Bean Catering & Food Service; choir director Adrian Maclin; Gwendolyn Turner, co-founder, Billy Rivers and the Angelic Voices of Faith, Inc.; Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings; and Timothy Mason, Grammy nominated and Stellar Award-winning musician, producer and writer.

On Friday, June 14, from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m., the Juneteenth Urban Music Festival officially begins with live stage performances, activities for seniors, a number of vendors, and Kids Zone, with rides, games and inflatables.

There will be a mobile outdoor educational museum on the grounds each day depicting the history of Juneteenth, including the abolition of slavery and the facts surrounding President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. 

The next day – Saturday, June 15, from 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. – live stage performances will continue in addition to the “Juneteenth Ultimate Dance Showdown,” featuring the “best of the best” majorettes, dancers, steppers and cheerleaders. Other activities are scheduled for the youth and the entire family as well.

Sunday, June 16, is “Food Truck Sunday” and “Praise Fest at Juneteenth,” featuring gospel music, inspirational and encouraging words spoken by ministers, preachers and gospel artists and more from 12 p.m. – 10 p.m. Some of Memphis’ most talented choirs, singers and musicians will take center stage. 

 “Juneteenth is here to stay. We celebrate our freedom from slavery because it is important that we don’t forget where we came from,” said Franklin. “This is an opportunity for all of us, including other ethnicities, to eat, dance, worship and be merry.”

Juneteenth is a national holiday in the United States commemorating the abolition of slavery and the freeing of the last African-American slaves in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865. The commemoration began in Memphis 27 years ago. 

(For more information about the Juneteenth Urban Music Festival, contact Telisa Franklin at 901-281-6337 or log on to