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Oxford Juneteenth Celebration Events to Focus on Unity

Created to highlight the historical and ongoing contributions of Oxford’s African American community, the annual Juneteenth Celebration highlights the cultural, community and business entities in Lafayette County.

The popular festival was launched 12 years ago when every resident in the Martin Luther King neighborhood donated to host a free event. An open invitation was extended to all Oxford residents to visit the neighborhood.

“We wanted people to gather, share a meal, hear music and see the African American community in its entirety as business owners, families, artists and community leaders,” said Frances Howell who has served on the event committee since the first celebration.

The annual event traditionally features a large community celebration. The committee looked at postponing the celebration due to COVID-19 but realized that a positive message could help bring unity to the community.

“While we plan to host a celebration at a later date when we can gather safely, we thought it was important to share the core message of our celebration; unity. We have created events that will allow us to gather safely, highlight the African American community, and connect the diverse parts of our community,” said committee member and Alderman Kesha Howell Atkinson.

Juneteenth is an unofficial American holiday celebrated annually on June 19 in the United States to commemorate Union army general Gordon Granger’s reading of federal orders in the city of Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, proclaiming that all enslaved persons in the U.S. state of Texas were now free.

The celebration will feature three events.

Kicking off on Friday, June 19 will be the Equality Scavenger Hunt. Committee members have created an online scavenger hunt that highlights African American owned businesses, historical sites and cultural spaces. The scavenger hunt will run June 19 with the winner announced the final Friday. The scavenger hunt is free with a downloadable clue sheet and mobile device option downloadable at oxfordjuneteenth.org.

A Unity Walk will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 20. The walk will start at the Coach Howell Activity center on Price Street with participants coloring posters. Once they have created a poster, groups will walk to the Square and “Color the Town” by hanging posters that contain messages of unity, peace and equality. Local artists are creating posters for community members to color and art supplies will be provided.

The weekend will culminate in a screening of “Ms. Juneteenth” at the Oxford Film Festival’s Pop Up Drive-In at 8 p.m. Sunday in the lot next to the Cannon Motors on Highway 6 West.

A complete schedule of events can be found online at www.oxfordjuneteenth.org.

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