The Itta Bena Board of Aldermen postponed until Thursday a decision on supporting a Juneteenth celebration scheduled for June 29 in the city park.

Charlotte Carpenter Ogieriakhi of Mission in the Delta Inc. asked the board at its Tuesday meeting to donate two portable toilets or allow the use of City Hall restrooms during the event, which is now in its fifth year.

She said former mayor Thelma Collins paid for portable toilets for three earlier Juneteenth events.

The Leflore County Board of Supervisors and the Greenwood Convention and Visitors Bureau have contributed money to Juneteenth, but their funds can be used only for advertising, Ogieriakhi said. Other organizations also have donated. 

She said she uses her own money to pay for entertainment, food and other expenses.

She said vendors pay $45 each to set up in the park and sign liability forms. She works with an event planner who handles the insurance.

Juneteenth is an annual observance to celebrate the enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all remaining slaves in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865.

This year’s celebration will pay tribute to Dr. Ronald Myers, a Belzoni physician and minister who was  founder and chairman of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation. Myers died last year.

Ogieriakhi said she expects representatives of the foundation from all over the United States to attend the gathering in Itta Bena.

Helen Sims of Belzoni, who is the head of that city’s Juneteenth celebration, said it’s intended to bring the community together and promote history and culture. If Itta Bena’s park can host a celebration of the Fourth of July, it can do the same for Juneteenth, she said.

“Our history demands it; our people deserve it,” she said.

Steve Williams, president of the National Juneteenth Observation Foundation, told the board that Juneteenth is a celebration for all Americans — not just black Americans — and is about moving forward with a spirit of liberation and unity.

“Mississippi can go from being the poorest state, with the poorest counties in America, to the richest — with the Juneteenth spirit,” he said.

Board member Johnnie Riley said some people, including members of her family, weren’t fed at a past Juneteenth. Ogieriakhi apologized but said that she intended to feed everyone.

Board member JoAnn Purnell moved that the issue be tabled, and the board members in attendance approved the motion unanimously.

Alderman Reginald Freeman was absent.

Brasel mentioned that the board would have to hold a special meeting soon to approve the docket of claims. The board opted to do that and have the Juneteenth discussion at a special meeting beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday.

After the meeting, Ogieriakhi said she didn’t understand the hesitation about backing her event when it was supported under Collins’ administration. “I’m not stealing these people’s money; I make my own money,” she said. “I put so much of my own dollars in it, it’s crazy.”

Brasel said after the meeting that he had no problem with supporting the celebration if that’s what the board wanted.

Also Tuesday:

nThe board accepted money to pay for the replacement of a heating unit at the L.T. Brazil Center. Dee Jones of Hope Enterprise Corp. said money had been found for the project, which will include the installation of two new units, slightly enlarging a closet and moving a door. She said the cost of the work has been estimated at $5,700.

nFormer Mayor Thelma Collins reported that she was continuing to talk to Dr. S.L. Sethi about putting a Bumpers restaurant in Itta Bena.

Brasel, who also  has been involved in discussions about Bumpers, said he would prefer that it be within the city rather than on the highway but would welcome either one.

nThe board delayed a decision on allowing Victorious Faith Ministries to hold Vacation Bible School June 3-7 at the Brazil Center.

Contact David Monroe at 581-7236 or dmonroe

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