By Wiley Henry
MEMPHIS, TN – Juneteenth is alive and well in Memphis all monthlong and culminates June 17-18 in the 30th annual Memphis Juneteenth Festival from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day at Health Sciences Park, 26 South Dunlap in the Medical District.
“We have been at the forefront in Memphis for 30 years in terms of celebrating Juneteenth,” said Dr. Telisa Franklin, the festival’s president. “Now that Juneteenth is a federal holiday, we’re excited that everybody gets a chance to celebrate.”
The celebration began June 1 with the Juneteenth Family Empowerment Fair at Ed Rice Community Center in the Frayer community. Job seekers – even budding entrepreneurs – gleaned something from participating businesses, city and county governments, recruiters, schools, and more.
Next on tap is Franklin’s Juneteenth The Musical Stage Play, Saturday, June 10, at the Holloran Centre for Performing Arts & Education, 225 South Main St. Talented singers and dancers from the Young Actors Guild (YAG) will take center stage in this adaptation of the Juneteenth experience after slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned they had been emancipated.
Chrysti Chandler, who founded YAG 32 years ago, is the play’s creative director. Tickets can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com for either the 2 p.m. stage play or the one at 7 p.m.
“I give kudos to Chrysti for her vision, creativity, and for interpreting the story of Juneteenth from YAG’s perspective,” Franklin said. “This is a signature event for the Memphis Juneteenth Festival.”
Up next is the Memphis Juneteenth Community Baby Shower Empowerment Luncheon, Sunday, June 11 at The Kent, from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. This event is powered by District 7 City Councilwoman Michalyn Easter Thomas and Franklin.
“The baby shower benefits expecting mothers who need to know where to go for invaluable resources,” Franklin said. “Lots of information will be available.”
There will be information on the health and wellness of mothers and their babies, including breastfeeding and free baby essentials. Topics include “Maternal Mental Health & Grief Trauma Counseling” and “Connections to Resources & Supportative Services.”
Food, fun and, again, powerful information will be available. Registration is required. Visit www.MemphisJuneteenth.com for more information and details.
The 30th Anniversary Juneteenth Freedom Luncheon is up next, Thursday, June 15, at Holiday Inn University of Memphis, 3700 Central Ave. The grand ballroom is the setting for this 11:30 a.m. luncheon.
Dr. Raymond Winbush, a noted scholar, activist, research professor and director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University (MSU) in Baltimore, Md., is the keynote speaker.
“If you haven’t heard Dr. Winbush expound on reparations as it relates to Juneteenth, then you’re in for a treat,” Franklin said. “He is the go-to person for African-American history and culture.”
More information is online at www.MemphisJuneteenth.com.
On Saturday, June 17, the Juneteenth Freedom 2.5 Run/Walk commences at Health Sciences Park. The 2.5K Run/Walk is significant because it took 2 ½ years before the slaves in Galveston, Texas, learned they’d been freed.
There’s a Kid Dash as well for runners ages 2-11. Medals will be awarded in each race. Participants can register online as well.
Also on June 17, the first day of the festival, there will be a Juneteenth Greek Stroll Off. Fraternities and sororities from Historically Black Colleges and Universities will step, snap, or stomp in spirit and pride.
Other highlights of the first day include the Juneteenth Youth Showcase featuring majorettes, drummers, dancers, singers, and cheerleaders. Altogether, the two-day festival features a variety of entertainment, including arts & crafts, food vendors, a car and bike show, and activities for seniors and children.
The Memphis Juneteenth Festival is a 501c (3) organization and one of Memphis’ longest-running festivals. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland recently proclaimed June 17-18 as “The Memphis Juneteenth Festival” and “claim this the official Juneteenth festival in the City of Memphis.”
Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris also claimed Juneteenth to be the official festival.