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Western Kentucky Residents Plan To Mark Juneteenth With Community Celebrations, Empowerment

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Liam Niemeyer
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Screenshot
Cropped screenshots advertising Juneteenth events in Mayfield (left) and Hopkinsville (right). Links with more information about respective events throughout the region are below.

Residents in some western Kentucky communities are planning to celebrate the Juneteenth holiday this Saturday with gatherings featuring local businesses, a voter registration drive and in one case, a protest.

Crystal Fox, who leads the education department at the Mayfield-Graves County NAACP chapter, said the first official Juneteenth celebration in Mayfield was organized last year around the idea of “unity” in the midst of Black Lives Matter protests across the state.

But this year, Fox says the celebration is centered on “empowerment,” featuring a voter registration drive, a COVID-19 vaccine clinic and a basketball tournament.

“We want to basically empower the minority community to reach their potential,” Fox said. “We want to offer them opportunities to let them know they’re important and offer them an opportunity to promote their businesses.”

The festival will also feature a keynote speech from Louisville Democratic Rep. Attica Scott. Fox said organizers invited Scott because of her activism and platform to empower Black Kentuckians.

Scott introduced legislation last year to ban no-knock warrants by law enforcement called “Breonna’s Law.” The bill was named after Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was shot and killed by Louisville Metro Police Department officers while executing a no-knock search warrant.

Fox said with Mayfield being a diverse community, organizers want to invite everyone to celebrate the holiday that has traditionally been a celebration centered in Black communities.

In Murray, activists are marking the holiday by calling on residents to protest for the removal of a local Confederate monument. Removal advocate Sherman Neal said there’s room for both community celebrations and calls for action on the holiday.

“Juneteenth is a remarkable thing to celebrate,” Neal said. “We want to make sure that the celebration also recognizes that we still have a lot of progress to achieve here.”

In honor of the Juneteenth holiday, Neal earlier this month led a fundraising campaign for the Hotel Metropolitan, a historic Paducah hotel that served Black people during decades of segregation.

In Hopkinsville, local business owner Danielle Buckner Green is hosting a gathering with other vendors and music that she hopes will be a unifier for the city.

“I want everybody to be able to come together and network together and just be like a big family,” said Green who owns Let’s Talk Natural Boutique in Hopkinsville.

Green said with communities becoming more aware of the significance of Juneteenth, she hopes people unfamiliar with the holiday will research more about its history and heritage.

In Weakley County, Tennessee, a coalition is holding a candlelight vigil on June 19 at the local courthouse. A release from the Weakley County Reconciliation Project states the vigil is “not a protest, but an opportunity for our community to come together.” The vigil will feature a choir performance and spoken word from community members, according to the release.

Legislation is quickly moving through Congress that would make Juneteenth an official federal holiday. Some states have made Juneteenth an official paid state holiday, including Illinois. In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear signed a proclamation last year recognizing the holiday.

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