NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — To commemorate the first year of the nationally recognized federal holiday of Juneteenth, the executive chef at Anzie Blue customized a menu and planned a celebration reflective of her family's traditions on the holiday growing up in Alabama.
"Juneteenth for me has always been a celebrated major event in my family," explained Anzie Blue Executive Chef Star Maye. "We put out this big spread for everybody to eat. Everybody gets to come together. So I wanted to show people who haven't had the opportunity to celebrate Juneteenth what it is really like."
The celebration at the restaurant Sunday was complete with a gospel band as a nod to her family's tradition of starting the holiday at church when she was growing up in Alabama.
She was born in Repton, Alabama, and said all of her family lived within about 30 miles of each other for 150 years. Her grandmother lived a few towns over in in Vredenburgh.
"The town was a cashless town," she explained. "They give them like credit so they built this general store. They built a church and a post office on one side. They built a church and a store on the other side. That store and the railroad track separated the whites from the blacks, so it was really the wrong side of the tracks. So even today, those two sides of the railroad track look different."
It was in these towns Maye was introduced to cooking and to Juneteenth.
"[Juneteenth is] about freedom. It's about people who did not have an understanding to realize that they were free until then at this moment in their life. They got the opportunity to walk around and not feel like something bad was gonna happen. This was the moment where they really got a voice that somebody would listen to," Maye said. "Until 1865, they were someone's property. And now they are free from being property. Let's take every advantage we can from that."
Maye said her grandmothers, who were still setting that example for her well into their 90s, gave her the motivation to chase a career as a chef.
"I definitely have an advantage. I have a lot more things to catapult me forward [than she did]. So me being in this place right now in my life is very surreal, because that's what she fought for. That was her purpose," said Maye. "So now I'm just trying to make sure that her legacy means something."
The celebration at Anzie Blue was the first Juneteenth for some guest and others had been celebrating their whole lives.
Maye said she hopes the holiday is a reminder the country can never revert back.
"History is not to make you feel bad or anything like that is to help you not repeat the same mistake," she said. "So if I wrote everything down, and I tell you how it happened for us, now you have the ability to be able to change that. And that's what Juneteenth means to me. I see that change."