Jackson to headline Summit St. Unity Festival

Getting ready for next weekend’s festival are, from left, Sheilar Conerly Pickens, Vasti Jackson, Calvin Phelps and Torium Brown.

McComb native Vasti Jackson is returning for a hometown performance during next Saturday’s Summit Street Unity Festival, which will kick off with the unveiling of a statue in his likeness and feature a performance by the Grammy-nominated bluesman.

The festivities begin with a parade starting at Higgins Middle School and continuing to the intersection of Summit and Marquette streets. Lineup begins at 9 a.m. and the procession rolls at 10. Jackson will be the grand marshal.

The statue unveiling will be held at 11 on the southeast corner of the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Summit Street.

Jackson will perform at 4 p.m., and various artists, including students from the Jubilee Performing Arts Center, Ontario Showers, T Burns & Dedicated, along with gospel, blues and rap acts, and mimes and praise dancers, will be performing throughout the day. Political candidates will speak between musical acts.

The festival also will include vendors and kids’ activities.

“It’s about bringing the community together,” said festival organizer Sheilar Conerly Pickens.

The festival wraps up at 8 p.m.

Torium Brown, who chairs the committee organizing the festival, said the event, which is being held in partnership with the McComb Creative Economy Partnership, is a revitalization of the former Summit Street Festival that used to be held in the 1980s and ’90s but has been on hiatus for years.

“At this point in time, it’s to unify McComb, basically, so we chose to go with that name, the Summit Street Unity Festival,” he said.

And if there’s ever a unifying force for the event, it’s Jackson — a guitar virtuoso and natural-born showman whose sets appeal to a wide audience.

It’ll be the first McComb performance by the hometown musician since he played at the State Theater in November 2017, where he packed the house and reminisced about growing up and going to school in McComb.

Calvin Phelps of the McComb Creative Economy Partnership said  that organization got involved after plans for the statue unveiling came together.

“After it was suggested that the Summit Street Unity Festival committee contact MCEP because we were doing the Iron Horse Festival, we wanted to help them get this festival kicked off again in the best possible way,” Phelps said. “We had already planned on unveiling the Vasti Jackson sculpture and so it just made sense to put these two events together and have Vasti as the headliner.”

McComb resident Greg Harbison designed the sculpture in collaboration with Jackson, and students from Phil Evans’ welding class at Southwest Mississippi Community College cut out the flat metal silhouette in Jackson’s likeness. McComb’s street department powder coated the piece of art and city workers also installed the base of the statue, which will feature information about Jackson.

Phelps said the sculpture was created in part with funding through the Mississippi Arts Commission.

Harbison, who also is a member of the McComb Creative Economy Partnership, said he hopes his role in helping to create the sculpture of Jackson will aid in promoting the key theme of the festival — unity.

“I hope that the name unity reflects what we’re actually attempting — all people involved. We need unity in this little city,” he said.

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