by Brianna Smith-Herman —
Memphis will join other cities across the United States this weekend to celebrate Juneteenth, which became a national Holiday on Thursday when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Act into law.
Juneteenth celebrates June 19, 1865 when Black Union soldiers brought news of the Emancipation Proclamation to Galveston, Texas, freeing enslaved people in the South and Southwest.
It is a day of educational events, festivals, cookouts and parades. In Memphis, this year’s commemoration has particular poignancy.
It will take place in the Medical District’s Health Sciences Park, formally called Nathan Bedford Forrest Park, where an equestrian statue of the former Confederate cavalry general, slave trader and Ku Klux Klan grand wizard once stood, and where Forrest and his wife, until recently, were buried.
The Juneteenth calendar in Memphis includes this list of events.
- The Juneteenth Urban Music Festival: Health Sciences Park, Union Avenue between Manassas and Dunlap, Friday (June 18 through Sunday (June 20) at 10 a.m. The celebration includes live music, a car show, a kids zone, and a freedom run and walk.
- Inaugural Juneteenth Freedom Ride: Saturday (June 19), 8 a.m., presented by Major Taylor Memphis and the Memphis River Parks Partnership. Event offers multiple routes and distances of 23, 44 and 63 miles with supported SAG stops. The Major Taylor Memphis cycling club’s mission is to promote a healthy lifestyle, sense of community and local partnership through various levels of cycling. Major Taylor became the first African-American World champion cyclist in 1899.
- Juneteenth: A Celebration and A Conversation: Front lawn at LeMoyne-Owen College, 807 Walker Ave., Saturday (June 19), 10 a.m. The LeMoyne-Owen College National Alumni Association will jump-start the morning with the inaugural Magician’s Ride Bike-A-Thon, followed by a day filled with food, a health fair, a symposium, a re-enactment and giveaways.
- The Juneteenth Shop Black Festival: Fourth Bluff Park, on Front St. between Court and Jefferson, Saturday (June 19), 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For the second year, this festival will celebrate black excellence with food trucks/vendors, live entertainment, vendors from all over the city, and fun for the entire family. The list of local businesses includes Pop’s Kernel, Lennox Watches, Chef Tam’s Underground Café and more. For more information on Juneteenth Shop Black Festival, visit online at juneteenthcdco.eventbrite.com.
- Shop Black Memphis: Martin Luther King Jr.-Riverside Park, Saturday (June 19) 1 p.m. Shop Black Memphis is a celebration of black small business owners. The goal is to provide opportunities and resources for Black-owned businesses to increase visibility and revenue. This event will showcase a variety of businesses and their products in an outdoor market that is free and open to the public.
- Memphis Juneteenth Family Reunion: Orange Mound Tower, Saturday, (June 19), 5 p.m. TONE in partnership with We Are Unapologetic has curated a night of musical performances, food trucks, games to celebrate the legacy and freedom of those who came before us. The Family Reunion is to sow the seeds of possibility into our community through purposeful and thoughtful interactions in a creative atmosphere.
- Memphis Vegan Festival: Fourth Bluff Park, Sunday (June 20), noon to 5 p.m. As more Memphians choose plant-based lifestyles, Cynthia Daniels & Co. launches The Memphis Vegan Festival. The festival will feature a fun experience around healthy food. The event is free. Patrons can experience vegan food, live entertainment and a marketplace, featuring local businesses, plant-based health and beauty products, clothing and accessories. For more information , visit online at 901veganfestival.eventbrite.com.