“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others” — Nelson Mandela.
In honor of Juneteenth and the community of Nashville as a whole, the Village Church hosted their annual Freedom Fair on June 9 at their Madison-based Fifty Forward venue (Rev. Kelli X, senior pastor). It was a day of the community coming together for the greater good utilizing several resources, God’s love, and reachable solutions. The Village Church is a “Christian, African-centered community called to worship God, study the Bible inquisitively, and cultivate leaders to spread God’s transformative love” (Village Church Mission Statement, 2014).
Here’s a synopsis of Juneteenth if you don’t already know: Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19 that Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas, with the news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had become official January 1, 1863.
The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
The Village Church began organization on November 1, 1997, under the leadership of Dr. Andrew Lee Stephens, Jr. as the organizing pastor. The congregation initially gathered for worship in the James A. Casey Homes public housing community. The church is proudly celebrating 20 years of service and still welcomes the community at large.
Division VII General Sessions Court Judge Rachel Bell and her team were on hand to process record expungements. Judge Bell and her team joined forces with the Village Church in creating a space for over 100 records to be expunged. In addition, the Job and Resource Fair provided many felons with an opportunity to grow and become employed.
Community and ministry leaders and various elected officials contributed to the day’s success. A variety of vendors were available to assist and address other needs such as employment, mental and physical health, academic and community resources. There were door prizes donated by the vendors and each of them provided plenty of literature to refer back to. Countless people lined up to get in to take part in all or some of what was being offered.
It was an invaluable day of hard work, sincere dedication, and giving back for all who played a part in this year’s Juneteenth Freedom Fair.
“Whether you were registered for expungements or seeking employment, freedom was found today,” said Rev. Kelli X. “Tears and long sighs caused by the feeling of hopelessness were felt. We are thankful for all individuals who attended our third annual Freedom Fair. We pray God keeps you and continues to restore.”