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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd/ People began to dance to the tunes of "Peace, Love and Happiness." The Big 9 Roots Festival was hosted by the Bessie Smith Cultural Center and the Mary Walker Historical and Education Foundation. The event which covered blocks of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd happened on October 5, 2019.

The Big 9 Roots Festival originally scheduled for Oct. 9 and 10 at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center has been postponed to 2022 because of concern about the spread of COVID-19.

"While we are disappointed to delay the festival, we are committed to our community's health and safety and believe this is the appropriate action to take in light of the delta variant and based on guidance from our public health partners," stated Yusuf Hakeem, chairman of the board of the Bessie Smith Cultural Center.

The first Big 9 Roots Festival, held in 2019, celebrated the many talented musicians and artists who played or influenced others who performed along what is now called M.L. King Boulevard. It was originally named 9th Street and was the center of Black culture and business in the city for decades.

Known then as The Big 9, it was home to numerous nightclubs and restaurants, and the festival celebrates that heritage.

According to a release from festival organizers, the decision to postpone was made out of a desire for public safety.

"Under new guidance, the setup, flow and reduced schedule that is needed to be able to safely offer the Big 9 Roots Festival would not allow for the same interaction with community members, vendors, and artists that are a hallmark of this event," said Paula Wilkes, president of the Bessie Smith Cultural Center.

— Compiled by Barry Courter

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