“This is our street,” said Peggy Seaton. “This is my people’s land. We got to take it back. It’s time!”
Seaton, like many others who attended last weekend’s Juneteenth celebration on Farish Street, hope that someday Farish Street will operate as it did in the early 1900’s.
After Jim Crow laws forced racial segregation across the South, Farish Street became “the black mecca,” one of the most progressive communities of black-owned businesses and homeowners for a period that lasted into the 1970’s.
A resident of Jackson, Seaton says she’s witnessed businesses open and close in the Farish Street district.
“I try to shop out here. I hope people can find the money they need to come put their businesses back out here,” said Seaton.
Juneteenth is the oldest known commemoration celebrating the annulment of slavery in the United States. This year, the city of Jackson and other partners decided to host the annual celebration on Farish Street.
Keyana E. Hawthorne is co-founder of Legacy Builders, Inc., a non-profit organization that partnered Saturday’s event. The organization focuses on empowering communities by providing knowledge, resources and support.
“We’re doing a parade this year, because we want to expose all of the different facets that we as a people have in our community,” said Hawthorne. “We are business owners, we are artists, teachers and dancers.”
Hawthorne hopes the festival will unify and educate citizens about black history and culture.
David Mosley, also known as D-Meezy, is the co-founder of Respect Our Black Dollars, an organization that promotes black entrepreneurship, buying from black business and economical and consumer literacy in the black communities. Mosley is also a community coordinator for the Juneteenth and Kwanzaa celebrations in Jackson. The festival began with a demonstration of libations lead by Mosley.
“You ever heard the brothers on the corner say, “I’m a pour out a little liquor?” That’s a form of libations. A space at a table where they had an empty seat, a little food and a little drink is another form of libations. All that is, is the honoring of your ancestors. Typically water and plant are used. The water being the source of life and the plant being the representation of the growth of life,” said Mosley.
Mosley held the microphone toward the crowd as persons would shout the names of the deceased. Mosley would repeat each name and pour the water into the plant as the crowd responded, “ashe” which means “so be it.”
Libations is something that is very ancient and important to African-American people, said Mosley.
“It is the constant regeneration of energy. As human beings we must remember that, so we don’t recreate the errors and in fact can uplift the greatness. That’s the purpose of libations.”
More than 30 registered black businesses set up tents to promote health and wellness, sell clothing and beauty supplies, paint faces and sell specialty foods.
Tierra Williams, the owner of Pesto’s Vegetarian Cuisine and Catering, uses all organic products. Alizeti pesto, Swahili for sunflower, is her specialty.
“We are trying to make people healthier one meal at a time,” said Williams.
Williams is also a member of Respect Our Black Dollars and hopes that Pesto’s could expand into a grocery store. The festival allowed her the opportunity to network with other black business owners.
Hawthorne added, “I hope to be able to circulate the money within the black community. All of our vendors are black-owned. The only way we will elevate financially is if we work together.”
Hawthorne described the festival on Farish Street as a “family reunion.”
“I’ve seen so many of my old classmates and coworkers with their families. That’s a good thing … That’s a good thing,” said Seaton. She makes an effort each year to support the city’s Juneteenth festivals and programs for herself and also for the upbringing of her son.
“I want him to love everybody, but it’s also my job as a parent to teach him how to love himself for his skin color. To bring him out here to see people of color doing something amazing, I feel like it’s my duty,” said Seaton.