NATCHEZ – Mellow jazz and gospel music performed by Kejuan Hawkins filled the Natchez Association for the Preservation of African American Culture museum on Main Street on Thursday night.
The museum was packed with people for the June 10th Kickback at NAPAC celebration.
Just as US President Joe Biden signed a law making Juneteenth a federal holiday, the holiday was celebrated at the museum with food, music, live poetry, and a special awards ceremony for black laureates. .
Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson presented three Keys to the City on Thursday, one to Reverend John Henry Hawkins, Reverend Earnest Ford Sr. and Francis Wallace, a NAPAC Museum volunteer.
Wallace said she works as hard as she does at NAPAC to ensure her children and grandchildren have opportunities they didn’t have as a black woman.
Ford, 85, has been a pastor for over 50 years in the Natchez and Miss-Lou area. He began this journey in 1963 and still preaches today.
Hawkins has served the Natchez community and surrounding areas as a contractor, builder, and pastor. He owned and operated the Hawkins Construction Company with his sons Charlie and Dwane Hawkins for 50 years and built The Briars and Wyolah’s home in Church Hill, which is owned by Tate Taylor and John Norris.
He has also done major renovations on historic homes such as Concord Quarters, Weymouth Hall, Dunleith, Springfield Plantation, Peter Crist House, The Burnes, The Cedars, Fair Oaks, Waverly, Lagonia and many more.
Gibson also made several announcements Thursday regarding the NAPAC museum.
NAPAC was founded in 1990 by Judge Mary Lee Toles with the help of Josie Gilchrist Camper, Mary White, Flora Terrell and Patricia Washington.
Gibson announced that the town of Natchez had budgeted for a new painting for the interior of the museum and new banners for the facade of the museum.
Plans are also underway for a kiosk inside the museum that will allow tourists to virtually see a number of the city’s historic sites that are part of African American history. In addition, QR codes placed on historical markers all over the city will give tourists the opportunity to see the same stories on their mobile phones while visiting the cities.
“We really want to celebrate the African American history that we have in this community,” Gibson said.