Birmingham prepares for Juneteenth celebration

Heather Gann, Contributing Writer

The Modern Green Book, a community organization dedicated to supporting, celebrating and uplifting Black businesses, is hosting their first annual Juneteenth Fest at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama on Saturday. 

The event will be a “celebration of Black excellence” from noon to 10 p.m. with local vendors, food trucks and performances throughout the day. 

The festival is the culmination of over six months of preparation by Modern Green Book’s creator, Theo Edwards Butler. Other community partners include the Regenerate Society, a non-profit organization focused on the division of influence within the community, and Off the Muscle Media, a media and entertainment agency.

Justin Foster, the CEO of Off the Muscle Media, said it’s been amazing to see how this project has developed in such a short span of time due to Butler’s hard work and commitment. 

“Personally, I am honored to be part of something that shows just how far we’ve come while also honoring those who have come before us. It is an opportunity to shed light on different parts of our culture shamelessly,” said Briauna Perryman, the Regenerate Society’s chief operating officer.

Modern Green Book will also showcase the local community. 

“Birmingham has so many people that have so much talent, and it’s just like we don’t have enough platforms to put people on,” Foster said. “So, I feel like this showcase and the entire Juneteenth festival as a whole [will be] able to showcase those local businesses [and] artists and be able to glorify the community and put them on a pedestal and just pour back into it.” 

Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin said this Juneteenth celebration is vital to the community.

“Birmingham’s legacy is rooted in the fight for freedom, and that’s why Juneteenth is such a special event for us. That commitment to equality extends to our business community. The Modern Green Book is a continuation of the work of the original Green Book by Victor Hugo Green, this time bringing awareness to modern Black businesses,” Woodfin said. “It’s a celebration of blackness in so many forms — beauty, music, creativity, dance and more. It’s truly an extension of the groundwork laid by [Green] and the freedom fighters that made history in our streets.”

With Birmingham’s strong civil rights history, Perryman said it’s fitting to have a festival celebrating emancipation, which “set the tone and made it possible for those civil rights leaders to make the changes that they did.” 

“We must acknowledge every part of our history and celebrate the parts that led us to today,” she said. 

The history of the holiday began in Galveston, Texas, in 1865 after over 2,000 Union troops arrived and announced the freedom of more than 250,000 enslaved people by executive decree. 

Afterward, the freed people celebrated for seven straight days with dancing and cookouts, and the day became a nationally celebrated holiday. 

Brenda Paige Ward, the state director of the national Juneteenth Observation Foundation of Alabama, said celebrations such as this one, as well as the continued education of the younger generations, are essential for future progress.

“Black people fought in the [Civil] War in chains, and then had to return to chains when they came back,” Ward said. “It’s important to remember the day when all men actually became equal.”

Following the murder of George Floyd and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, Juneteenth received increased national attention.  

“I think it’s beautiful that people are finally recognizing the importance and significance of Juneteenth. It’s such a major part of African American history, and it’s not talked about as much as it needs to be,” said Maytreecia Harriell, a UA senior majoring in creative media. 

Foster said Juneteenth is more than just a celebration; it’s a day where Black people are able to “take a breath,” feel welcome and come together as a community. 

Above all else, Foster said he hopes people come out to the “event of the century” and have a good time. 

“I’m proud of The MGB for holding firm to the mission of providing opportunities for Black communities, and I’m excited for Saturday’s Juneteenth Fest,” Woodfin said.