As you know, for the last several months our heritage has been placed under assault by some terribly misguided people in leadership positions in the city of Memphis, particularly where it relates to Confederate themed Parks, Memorials, and other places of Confederate historic significance. I was inspired and encouraged this weekend by the talk among both participants and guests at the excellent Hernando reenactment (which drew some 3000 spectators over 2 days), and in listening to the leadership of various reenactment groups insisting that each man be there, and hearing from other groups in attendance that they planned to be here. Many were from Mississippi and Arkansas, some from East of Memphis and middle Tennessee, some actually from Memphis. All plan to be there. Good PR is part of the way we will win this fight, and what better PR is there than to have the largest crowd EVER attend the Gen. Forrest Birthday celebration at Forrest Park on Sunday, July 14 at 2:00 PM?
I know, I know. It seems to always be on the hottest day of the year. Tell that to the Honor Guard, and the Color Guard, and the other living historians who will be there in uniform with full accoutrement – many of whom will have traveled a long distance to be here for a comparatively short ceremony, standing in ranks sweating their brains out while waiting their turn to pass honors. Tell it to the ladies and gentlemen in attendance in period dress or to the volunteer crew that gets there hours beforehand to set up for the event and stays after to break it down. Volunteers from Citizens to Save Our Parks will no doubt be there with petitions to sign and taking donations to cover our costs relating to the lawsuit against the City, which by the way WE WILL WIN. Besides, the ceremony only lasts an hour or so, and there's watermelon and cold water to keep you cooled off. The AC will likely still work in your car when we're done, too, and there's nothing like that "whoosh" when it first cranks up on a hot day. Yeah, I know, it's always on a Sunday. Well, yes it is, but church is out at most places long before start time, there are no conflicting holidays or 3-day weekends (although there should be), and the NFL is still only thinking about training camp, so Sunday shouldn't really be much of an issue either. In reality, if you are a member of the SCV or UDC, a reenactor, or other living historian, or just somebody who loves history - unless you are working, have prepaid out of town plans, a family emergency, or are physically unable to attend, there is no reason not to be there and not to bring somebody with you, especially considering the circumstances this year. This is historical preservation after all, and historical preservation is what we do.
So, while I am not really a leader in this organization, I am personally challenging each of you to be there, regardless as to whatever else may be going on. I'm getting this out to you almost a month ahead of time, so if you put it on your calendar today, July 14th shouldn't fill up with something else. If you know or come into contact with other like-minded individuals, please invite them to also attend.
This is an opportunity. This is the time. We've been to the meetings, we've written and spoken to various council members, the mayor, the media, the naming committee, the Parks Commission, State Representatives and other leaders. This is the time for all of us to come out and stand up for and celebrate what we believe in and the history we love and to honor our ancestors and what they fought and died for by making this the largest Forrest Birthday celebration on record if possible, and if not then let's make it the largest in recent memory. This is the time to show those that would try to attack, erase, and remove those historic places that we love and cherish that we will NOT go quietly into the night and let them do what they will, that these places ARE important and DO matter, and that their names are Nathan Bedford Forrest Park, Confederate Park, and Jefferson Davis Park. And the best opportunity to do that in the immediate future is this event. So show up. Bring your family. Bring your friends. Bring everybody you can, and let's make this one the biggest, best and most significant ever. See you there.