MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - This year’s Juneteenth Urban Music Festival is at Health Sciences Park where Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s remains are still buried.
“Freedom is here, freedom is now. We are in our new home, the Memphis Juneteenth festival,” said Festival President, Telisa Franklin.
Franklin said they are “reclaiming these grounds” as organizers announced plans Friday for the festival June 18 and 19.
“There were times when a little girl like me couldn’t even walk in this park,” said Franklin. “But on today we have little girls like myself and little boys like my son will be able to walk in this park and feel freedom.”
Forrest was also the first Ku Klux Klan grand wizard.
His statue was removed from the park in 2017, and plans are underway to relocate Forrest’s and his wife’s remains to Columbia, Tennessee at the new National Confederate Museum.
“This is almost like a book. What once stood as a confederate soldier, now we’re having a Juneteenth celebration on this land, so this is going to be great and we’re looking forward to it,” said Van Turner, President and CEO of Memphis Greenspace.
The Juneteenth Festival has been celebrated in Memphis for 28 years, previously held at Douglass Park and Robert E. Church Park.
This year’s event will feature education opportunities, vendors and entertainment from gospel artist Earnest Pugh.
“And all weekend long we will continue to impact the lives of so many of our children so that they know that Juneteenth means free, and they are free to be whatever they want to be,” Franklin said.
During civil unrest last summer many companies made Juneteenth a paid holiday, including Shelby County Government. The Memphis City Council has yet to vote on the resolution that would declare Juneteenth a paid holiday for city employees.
Juneteenth commemorates the anniversary of the emancipation of slaves in the United States.
Franklin said the park will be filled with vendors, educational opportunities and entertainment including gospel musician Earnest Pugh.