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Brooks: Juneteenth will go on

Leroy Brooks

Leroy Brooks

District 5 Supervisor Alleges Political Motives Used to Block Juneteenth Festival
By Jeff Clark
Twitter/Vine @thejeffclark
Less than 24 hours after the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors removed a discussion on funding the Juneteenth Festival from its agenda, festival organizer and District 5 Supervisor Leroy Brooks said the festival will continue. Brooks, on Tuesday, held a press a conference in front of the CVB building to discuss the future of the event and to chastise some members of the board for allegedly using politics to try and stifle the decades-old festival.
“The Juneteenth Festival will go on as planned,” Brooks said.
Brooks has been at odds with the CVB after the board voted to implement new festival grant guidelines he deemed “unacceptable.” Brooks expressed his frustration with the board and turned down a $15,000 festival grant in December, stating the money would not be enough to cover his entertainment costs. Under the new grant guidelines, festivals can be funded up to $15,000 and only 25 percent of the grant money can be used towards entertainment. Quality of life events can be funded up to $8,000, all of which can be used for entertainment. Juneteenth organizers also applied for a quality of life grant, but the request was voted down during a specially called meeting March 25. Board member Bernard Buckhalter had added another discussion on the funding of Juneteenth to Monday’s agenda. The board voted 5-4 to remove the item from the agenda. Board members Mark Castleberry, Rissa Lawrence, Leon Ellis, Harvey Myrick and Bart Wise voted for the removal of the agenda item.
“I’m not taking this lying down,” Brooks said. “We’re pressing on. We are going to go out to the community and solicit donations for the festival. This board has been stacked by people who want to try and hurt Juneteenth. The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors have always replaced  black  board member with a black board member until George Swales retired and they replaced him with Leon Ellis who votes against everything — including Market Street Festival. This all started when the (Golden Triangle Development) Link wasn’t getting enough money and (District 1 Supervisor and board President Harry Sanders) started appointing his people. We’re encouraging people to take their money out of Trustmark Bank because of (bank president) Bart Wise. They discussed Grilling On The River several times and then they decided to fund it. It’s still Harvey Myrick’s festival — I don’t care what he says.”

“Mark Castleberry needs to go back to Tennessee. He needs to resign from this board.”

– Leroy Brooks

Brooks also accused the CVB of bringing politics into festival funding. During a heated discussion after the agenda item was removed, Castleberry suggested Juneteenth could go on with Ward 5 councilman candidate Kenny McFarland at its helm. Castleberry also said he had issues not with the festival itself but with some of the book keeping practices of its organizers and with Brooks’ tactics.
“The CVB has brought politics in this,” Brooks said. “Why is the CVB venturing into the political arena? I don’t like Kenny McFarland and he needs to stay the hell away from me. Mark Castleberry needs to go back to Tennessee. He needs to resign from this board. He has something against me personally and it’s a conflict of interest when he votes. He needs to go. He needs to leave me alone.”
McFarland said he had talked to Castleberry and other members of the community about keeping Juneteenth going.
“The community is very displeased that Juneteenth may not be held this year,” MacFarland said. “My position as a candidate and a possible elected official is to give the community what it needs. I have spoken to many people in the community about this. I will be glad to serve on a committee to help with Juneteenth.”

L to R - Kamal Karriem - Kabir Karriem - Leroy Brooks

L to R – Kamal Karriem – Kabir Karriem – Leroy Brooks

When asked if he would be willing to serve on Brooks’ committee and that festival organizers are planning to move forward with Juneteenth, MacFarland said, ” I don’t know anything about (the festival continuing) and you already know the answer about me serving on Brooks’ committee.”
Castleberry would not comment on Brooks’ demands for him to resign. When asked if he had contributed financially to McFarland’s campaign, Castleberry said yes.
“He is my candidate in the ward in which I live,” Castleberry said. “He is who I am supporting.”
Brooks was supported by Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem and his brother and local NAACP representative Kamal Karriem during the press conference.
“I think it’s incumbent for the mayor and council to look at the actions of this board,” said Kabir Karriem, who was present during Monday’s Juneteenth discussion.. “The mayor and council should investigate the actions of this board. We can’t have people with personal agendas making decisions on this board. Columbus right now is suffering from tax falls. Anyone that spends money with us is a plus. These festivals generate tax money. We can’t marginalize events in Columbus. We can’t continue to have this divisiveness in the community.
Kamal Karriem also accused the CVB board of dividing the community by suggesting Juneteenth be taken away from Brooks.
“We are very concerned about the CVB board creating divisiveness in the community,” Kamal Karriem said. “To say someone else should do Juneteenth is like us saying we’re going to take over Pilgrimage or Grilling on the River.”


1 comment

  1. Sanderson Hemsworth

    When a newspaper wrote something about Kabir and Leroy and Robert using our festivals as political feedbags to get votes, Leroy and Kabir both said these festivals weren’t about them. Both of them said their names weren’t on them, that they just organize them for us. Just so we know what these people are saying now, these festivals are about them and they do own them. New people need to stay out of them.
    I guess since Marty Turner is new he needs to follow the same rules? How dare Marty run for public office? This is more of the same old do as I say and not as I do that’s ruined this town.
    Have you listed to Leroy and Kabir’s speech on the radio? That’s bold talk and I hope Kenneth will do something about it. Leroy accuses Kenneth of being paid by white people to run against Kabir. we know who’s pulling Kabir’s strings. A lot of us don’t want Columbus turning into a little Chicago. A lot of us want to get along with everybody no matter what race or religion they are. And how can Kabir can be on the city council and want black people to boycott a business in town? Why doesn’t a newspaper ask him that? He should be ashamed of himself. Everybody in ward 5 knows Kabir’s just keeping Kamal’s seat warm until the state lets Kamal get back in again.

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