Juneteenth Festival brings music, history to Tattnall Square Park

Telegraph correspondentJune 13, 2014 


Adrienne King Comer, of Charleston, South Carolina, waits during the 2012 Juneteenth Festival for a table at her tent, where she planned to demonstrate the use of indigo in making fabrics.

BEAU CABELL — bcabell@macon.com Buy Photo

A mix of music, dance and education will close out a week of festivities celebrating the date the last slaves in America were freed.

The Juneteenth Freedom Festival will culminate with events Saturday in Tattnall Square Park.

“We really do this festival out of an educational drive and educating the community about the impact of that time and the sacrifice that was made and the impact on those lives,” said George Muhammad, one of the festival organizers. “Juneteenth is something everybody needs to be educated on regardless of what their race and background is. It’s not a matter of dwelling on slavery, though we must remember what we have gone through ... it’s about moving forward to develop ourselves and make good on our relationship to make Macon a better place for all people.”

Saturday’s headliner will be a performance by the Middle Georgia Jazz and Blues Allstars, a loose group of local legends and up-and-coming younger musicians.

“That group is -- for lack of a better word -- an assembly of the some of the finest musicians in Middle Georgia,” Muhammad said.

The players represent a mix of blues, jazz and gospel performers and will comprise Walter Jackson, Robert Coleman, Oscar Jackson, Jimmy Mills, William Reeves, Kadir Muhammad, Vinson Muhammad, Marcus Johnson, Dean Brown, Andre Dean and Zstril Purcell. Blak Pearl will be singing.

“She has an extremely soulful and compelling voice,” Muhammad said. “She is one of the great voices in Middle Georgia. If you hear it, she has the same sound as some of the ladies from the past like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.”

There will be other performing artists, poets and theatrical presentations, he said. This includes Atlanta-based Total Dance, which features Ajile Axam.

“She comes every year and does a fantastic electrifying dance production,” Muhammad said. “She usually always closes out the festival. It’s very spiritual and very powerful.”

In addition to the music and dance performances, there will be proclamations and recognitions about the history of Juneteenth, which is a national celebration that commemorates the day Union Gen. Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas, and let the last of the American slaves know they were free. This happened June 19, 1865 -- more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves in the Confederate States.

“It wasn’t until Union troops arrived in every part of the South ... that slaves were able to leave,” Muhammad said.

The festival also will feature demonstrations by the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, which was one of the first official units of black Union soldiers during the Civil War. There will be food vendors, an organic vegetable market, traditional children’s games, demonstrations from the Boy Scouts and information from area organizations, including the Tuskegee Airmen.

The festival is marking 22 years at Tattnall Square Park, which was initially chosen because of its place in the local Civil Rights movement. In recent years, local historians learned that Confederate forces surrendered in the vicinity of the park on April 20, 1865.

Other weekend events include:

-- Annual Real Talk Hip-Hop Summit: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday, Douglass Theatre, 355 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.; and 4-8 p.m. Friday, Bloomfield Park, 4115 Lions Place. This will include workshops, discussions and performances “designed to open the eyes of the young people ... to show them you can express yourself in a positive way,” Muhammad said.

-- 5K/1-Mile Fitness Challenge: 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Central City Park. Features a run-walk along the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail. $5 donation.

Juneteenth Freedom Festival

When: 3-9:30 p.m. June 14

Where: Tattnall Square Park, downtown Macon

Cost: Free

Information: 478-737-3319

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