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Community kicks off Juneteenth Festival with Linen on the Lawn

Members of the Oxford community gathered Saturday at the Old Armory Pavilion for Linen on Lawn, the first of several events geared toward celebrating Lafayette County’s Black community at this year’s Juneteenth Festival

“Really, the whole principle of our Juneteenth festival is to celebrate our community and encourage neighbors and citizens that don’t normally interact with each other to find that it’s a place you can meet someone you never knew lived in Oxford,” said Kesha Howell-Atkinson, alderperson and chair of the Juneteenth Board, which plans and executes the event. “It is a major community event to me, and I think I can say the same for the Juneteenth board.”

The festival, which celebrates the emancipation of enslaved people and the contributions of the Black community in Oxford and Lafayette County, was founded 12 years ago by neighbors on Martin Luther King Drive and surrounding areas. Since then, it has grown to encompass a week-long celebration. 

“It started with a pack of hot dogs, and businesses around town also purchased hot dogs for us, and sponsored water slide and things like that,” Howell-Atkinson said. “It was basically a neighborhood community party, and we had vendors and music. From then the ball just started to grow to where we have outgrown our neighborhood.” 

This year’s kick-off was sponsored by the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, and featured music by the Blue Silk Band. Wayne Andrews, YAC’s executive director, says the organization was particularly excited to sponsor this year’s event because of its focus on the community. 

“This is one of the few events that is truly community driven,” Andrews said. “This is truly a community-created festival where the people on stage are your neighbors. It’s organized by members of the community who are all volunteers. They’re trying to showcase the greatest range of talent and skills and people that represent the community. They’re saying, ‘This is what we think is great about our friends and neighbors; look at how smart they are, how caring they are, how great of leaders they are.’ This is really about coming and being a part of a community.”

This year’s Juneteenth Festival will run until Saturday, June 19, and includes events like free professional photographs in front of the Greetings from Oxford mural and free Double Decker historical bus tours hosted by historian Rhondalyn Peairs on Tuesday, live music on City Hall Plaza on Thursday, and the Juneteenth Festival at Oxford Intermediate School on Saturday. Community members are also invited to participate in the virtual Juneteenth Scavenger Hunt, open until Saturday, June 19. 

For more information on the festival, visit the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council website. 

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