Memorialization gathering focuses on bringing communities together

Published 10:00 am Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Community groups and individuals interested in memorialization and remembrance efforts are invited to attend the free conference, Memorialization Gathering in Mississippi and Beyond, being held in Oxford, during the weekend of June 7-9.

Remembrance and memorialization projects include erecting historical markers detailing racial terror lynchings, holding soil collection ceremonies at lynching sites, and facilitating educational opportunities within a community.

The conference, taking place primarily at the Jackson Avenue Center, 1111 West Jackson Ave., will feature a keynote address, community supper and brunch, panel discussions, and more.

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Memorialization and remembrance efforts foster learning, grow empathy, and contribute to community-based healing and reconciliation. The gathering in Oxford, hosted by the Lafayette Community Remembrance Project, will bring together advocates from across the state for shared learning, skill-building, and making connections.

“The Memorialization Gathering conference will provide attendees with the opportunity to meet local advocates, learn about remembrance and memorialization work, connect to current projects, and find out how they can grow and sustain historical memory work in their communities,” said Castel Sweet, co-facilitator of the conference.

As noted by the Equal Justice Initiative: “Public memorials and gatherings centered around reflection and narrative change can help us advance more honest conversations about our past and present and better demonstrate a commitment to solving racial inequality and injustice moving forward.”

The conference opens at 4 p.m. Friday, June 7, at the Jackson Avenue Center with a film screening of a documentary directed by filmmaker Antonio Tarrell. The film follows a community group’s experience visiting sites of memory in the southern United States.

The opening film screening will be followed by a free dinner and a keynote address by Dr. B. Brian Foster, an ethnographer and multi-medium storyteller working to document and interpret the culture, folklore, and placemaking practices of Black communities in the rural South. Raised in Shannon, Mississippi, Foster is a former professor at the University of Mississippi. Today, he is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia and the author of two books, the award-winning “I Don’t Like the Blues” and “Ghosts of Segregation.”

The recently published “Ghosts of Segregation” features a collection of photographs by the Pulitzer Prize-nominated photojournalist Richard Frishman that document America’s history of segregation, oppression, and institutional racism hidden in plain sight. The photos are accompanied by Foster’s personal essays, including one essay focused on the 2018 dedication ceremony of a marker in Oxford acknowledging the 1935 lynching of Elwood Higginbottom.

Following the keynote address, the celebrated artist, photographer, filmmaker, and visual storyteller Talamieka Brice will introduce her film “Five: A Mother’s Journey.” The documentary tells the story of Brice’s journey of motherhood as she reconciles her history of being Black in America while raising a son who turned 5 during the racially tumultuous year of 2020.

On Saturday, June 8, the conference events at the Jackson Avenue Center will focus on workshops, panel discussions, and networking. Topics will include working with elected officials, engaging with apathetic audiences, collaborating between the community and descendant family members, the significance of oral histories, and examining recent case studies from communities.

A free lunch will be provided to Saturday’s attendees. Presenters at the events will include representatives with E Pluribus Unum, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, the Mississippi Humanities Council, and the Lafayette Community Remembrance Project.

After the panels and workshops conclude at 5:30 p.m., attendees will be invited to attend the “Linen on the Lawn,” one of Oxford’s most popular Juneteenth community events, taking place from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Old Armory Pavilion at 1801 University Ave. Hosted by Oxford Juneteenth and the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, this annual event features a free concert by The Soul Tones, a cash bar with drinks and cocktails by Bar Muse, and food options available for purchase from food trucks.

The conference concludes on Sunday, June 9, with a community breakfast from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. at the Old Armory Pavilion that features music, memorialization, and reflections. Also Sunday, a free 90-minute tour of Lafayette County Sites of Memory, including markers and remembrance sites, will be offered to attendees at 10:45 a.m.

“We look forward to offering the Memorialization Gathering in Oxford, which we hope will build a community of practice around this work in Mississippi,” said April Grayson, conference co-facilitator. “Those who attend the conference will be able to connect with remembrance and memorialization advocates from across Mississippi and beyond.

“The presentations, discussions, and workshops will provide the information and skills necessary for those interested in supporting remembrance projects. All participants will find they are vital members of an expanding network of Mississippians who are passionately engaged in remembrance work.”

The conference panels, workshops, discussions, keynote address, site tours, film screenings, Friday dinner and Saturday lunch are free to the people who register by May 31. Those planning to attend are required to register. To register, go to

The Memorialization Gathering in Oxford is presented by the Lafayette Community Remembrance Project and the Alluvial Collective. Sponsors include the Mississippi Humanities Council, LOU Mercy Re-entry Ministries, Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, and E Pluribus Unum. Additional sponsorship opportunities are available.

To sponsor the event or obtain more information, contact or call April Grayson at 662.832.0596 or Castel Sweet at 901.831.3108.