CATEGORY: Chickasaw County

AUTHOR: EILEEN

FESTIVAL TO BENEFIT OKOLONA COLLEGE

What: JUNE FEST.

When: June 22-23.

Where: Okolona College on U.S. Highway 45 Alternate in Okolona.

Activities: Flea market booths, music, entertainment, food and games.

For more information, call (601) 767-3085, (601) 447-2250 or (601) 842-7020.

By Eileen Bailey

Daily Journal

OKOLONA - Organizers of the Okolona College Project hope a June festival will raise about $10,000 to help pay for the clearing of trees and overgrown brush around the 94-year-old school.

Lillie Johnson, chairperson for JUNE FEST, said the event will be filled with activities and booths to raise funds to help restore Okolona College.

The two-day event runs June 22-23. Flea market booths will be open on Saturday and entertainment and other activities will begin about 11 a.m., Johnson said. There will be carnival rides for children, a mule-drawn wagon touring the campus, a horse show, car show, ball games, talent show and gospel show featuring various choirs.

The event is open to the public. Residents who attend are urged to come armed with lawn chairs to take a break under the shady trees on the about 70 acres that make up the campus.

The college, located on U.S. Highway 45 Alternate in Okolona, was founded in 1902 by Dr. Wallace Battle as a nonsectarian institute to provide normal and industrial training for African-American men and women.

Funding for the college came from local sources for the first few years, but it was later affiliated with the American Church Institute for Negroes, a corporation of the Episcopal Church. It was run by a board of trustees, with the bishop of the Episcopal Dioceses of Mississippi as chairman.

The college, which served as a four-year high school and a two-year-college, stayed open until the 1960s. Since its closing, the National Council of Negro Women sections of Mississippi have worked to purchase the college and its grounds. The group began making payments 10 years ago on a promissory note of about $80,000. The note was paid off in April and work is now under way to restore the campus.

Within the last few weeks, the group has hired a firm to clean the property surrounding the buildings. The money raised during JUNE FEST will be used to pay a portion of the work that has been done, Johnson said.

The group is hoping to use as many of the remaining buildings on the campus as possible. This summer, Johnson said, they hope to open portions of a building to provide summer programs and tutorial assistance for children.

The group also is making plans for a Community Vocational Training Program, designed to provide youths with life-training skills and technical and vocational trade education.

"We are trying give them the needed skills and to help with their education," Johnson said.

Johnson said the group also would like to see some part of the campus opened to provide senior citizens a place to go.

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