Fourteen years ago, Glynn Reed started Memphis' Juneteenth celebration — an event that commemorates June 19th, 1865, the day slaves in Texas learned that the Civil War was over and they were free. This year's Crossroads Ford Juneteenth Freedom and Heritage Festival salutes African Americans in the military.
The festival will take place June 15th to the 17th in Douglass Park. Activities include horseback riding, picnicking, kiddie rides, moon walks, face-painting, storytelling, Little League softball, Afro-centric jewelry sales, health-testing opportunities, and more.
R&B artist J. Blackfoot (pictured) will be the music headliner, performing at 7 p.m. on Saturday, and the gospel group Kevin Davidson & the Voices will perform at 6:15 p.m. on Sunday. In addition, Juneteenth will feature lots of local musicians, including African drummer Ekpe, "because we've got so much talent right here," Reed explains. And, as always, an abundance of food will be available, though families are welcome to bring their own.
Reed says that in just 14 years, Memphis' Juneteenth has experienced extraordinary growth. "At first, there were less than 300 people, and now, there's no way to tell how many people there are," she says.
As for the reason behind the festival's increased popularity: "We've been cooped up inside all winter," Reed says, laughing. But, more importantly, "It's a cultural event, and there are not a lot of opportunities for children and adults together to get history about their culture," she says. "It's a celebration of freedom."
Juneteenth, Douglass Park, June 15th-17th, free. For more information, go to www.juneteenthmemphis.com.