Thursday, June 9, 2016

A “whole lotta shakin' goin'” on at Juneteenth

More than 30,000 celebrants near and far attend the three-day Juneteenth
Urban Music Festival each year. (Photo by Wiley Henry)
     There will be a “whole lotta shakin' goin' on” when the Juneteenth Urban Music Festival commences June 17-19 in the historic Robert R. Church Park on “world famous” Beale Street in Downtown Memphis.
Well, not the kind of “shakin’” the legendary fireball rock and roller Jerry Lee Lewis sang about, but a kind of foot-tapping, handclapping and finger-popping that cannot be overlooked when people spring to their feet to respond to a plethora of music that will reverberate throughout the park during the three-day event.
The event is free, of course, much like the celebration that took place 150 years ago when the slaves in America celebrated with a feast and the sounds of revelry when they were apprised that President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1963, to free them.
In fact, it was two and a half years later on June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger and his Union Soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas, to break the news that the Civil War had ended and that slaves were henceforth free.
Last year, a mime performed, silently giving praise to God
and his glory. (Photo by Wiley Henry)
Juneteenth is the oldest-known celebration in the United States marking the end of slavery. Celebrants all across the U.S. commemorate the freedom of slaves from inhumane treatment and the yoke of bondage with food, drink, games and merriment.
This is the 24th year that Juneteenth is being celebrated in Memphis. The long-running festival is a mainstay and a cultural delight for celebrants seeking historic information about Juneteenth and an opportunity to revel in the park. Many of them attend the festival year after year.
The Juneteenth Urban Music Festival is devoted to Memphis’ rich musical history, which is an undisputed brand known worldwide and celebrated for its uniqueness and mass appeal. It has attracted celebrants near and far.
Vendors also will be in the park selling their products, including a tent with a historian on duty educating the crowd via pamphlets, placards and banners denoting the origin and history of Juneteenth and the reason for the ongoing festival.
 “If this is your first time celebrating with us, you’re going to enjoy the festivities,” said Telisa Franklin, Juneteenth’s CEO and president. “Memphis has a rich musical history and a plethora of talented artists and musicians.”
If that’s not enough to get you stirred up, Franklin and her staff will host the first-ever Memphis Juneteenth Job and Career Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, June 14, at Golden Gate Cathedral, 3240 James Rd. Check out the details at
“Bring your resume and dress for success,” said Franklin.
As a complement to the three-day festival, some of Memphis’ premiere and upcoming musicians and entertainers will be recognized and honored for their contribution to music and the community at the Juneteenth Urban Music Awards Thursday, June 16, at Crowne Plaza Memphis East Hotel, 2625 Thousand Oaks Blvd.
The awards show starts at 7:30 p.m. and features international recording artist Melvia “Chick” Rodgers and live performances by “Big Baby” Tameka Goodman, JROQSOL, Cortney Richardson, Delvin Crutcher, J. Lake, Ashton London, and Shenéa the Songstress. Channel 24 on-air personality Yvette Whiteside and life coach Dr. Sid will host the show.
General tickets are $10; premiere, $25. Tickets can be purchased at That’s Love Banquet Hall, 2988 Old Austin Peay; Uncle Lou’s Chicken, 3633 Millbranch Rd.; and McClain Motors, 1505 Elvis Presley Blvd. Tickets also can be purchased on Juneteenth’s website at
Gospel music is an integral part of Juneteenth. On Sunday, June 19, the last day of the festival, “Praise in the Park” will commence at noon. It is an all-day worship experience that crosses color lines and embodies “One God, One Love, One City.”
Churches and faith-based groups throughout Memphis are invited to worship in the park and bring with them a message of hope, faith, reconciliation, unity and praise. Innovation Church, pastored by the Rev. Marron D. Thomas Sr., will headline this year’s “Praise in the Park.”
Franklin noted that music – gospel, R & B, country, rock and roll, hip-hop, blues and jazz –  is an integral part of Juneteenth, which spun the revelry that celebrants everywhere enjoy during the month of June.
“We are here to stay,” said Franklin. “Memphis is a haven for good food, camaraderie and eclectic music. We won’t forget from whence we came. That’s why we celebrate Juneteenth – to call attention to the history of African Americans in this country.”

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