The African American Genealogical and Historical and Civic Society of Tennessee cited as TAGS sponsored the Juneteenth at the Fort Negley on June 28. Citing the fort as uniquely figured in Black history (with African American workers having helped to build the fort and 13,000 Black soldiers defending it in the Civil War), the site is a prime and appropriate place for holding such an event, according to the founder of TAGS and confirmed by the director at the Fort’s Visitor’s Center, Krisssa Castillo.
Held in cooperation with Fort Negley, several organizations were supporters of the effort, including: JUMP (Jefferson Street United Merchants Association), Metro Public Schools, Nashville Public Library, National Council of African American Women, and Neighborhood Associations. Contributors providing door prizes included: Akebulan Book Store, Authentic Tours of Historic Black Nashville, Coca Cola, College Crib, Essence Day Spa, Mary Kay, Tennessee State University, Wood Cuts, and WNPTV Channel 8.
Individuals figuring prominently in the planning and implementation of the celebration include: Andrea Blackman of the Public Library, a major supporter in several categories; Sharon Hurt, who collected door prizes; Perlie Murray Dunn, Kayveon Holt and LaRhonda Potts who manned registration and the ‘health booth’; Nurse Shewinna Holt was ‘nurse in charge of health activities; and Dr. Jocelyn Irby serving as judge of the essay contest papers.
A main feature of the event was the reading of the winning papers in the essay contest, with the theme of ‘Education is Emancipation (F. Douglass)’. Winners included: Andrew Cunning-ham and Kayveon Holt, joint first prize; Sydney Pritchard, second place; and Welton Pride, honorable mention. Actor Renard Hirsch read the monologue ‘In the Words of Frederick Douglass’ written by Tommie Morton Young. The U.S. Colored Troops Enactors presented and posted the Colors. Rev. Barbra Woods-Washington described her remarkable quilts and won a prize for her efforts.
For a second year, the Met Singers and Princely Players provided music. Nita Smith, musician with the Public School served as the Public School Contact, and Margaret Holman served as director of the musical groups. Councilwoman Sandra Moore presented the celebration with ‘proclamations’ from her office and that of the mayor.
Free drinks and sumptuous food was provided by Coca Cola, with the NCAAW offering barbeque, hot dogs, and hamburgers. Booths featured health information, library and voter registration. A Film Festival was presented in the Center’s auditorium throughout the afternoon showing videos from the NEH series Born Equal. Face painting, games, and a tour of Fort Negley were available.
Attendees shared conversations and enjoyed fellowship. An overflow crowd confirmed that ‘family outings,’ and learning experiences are well received in our community. TAGS seeks to keep Juneteenth as a ‘community-family’ affair devoted to preserving and perpetuating freedom and Black history.