Vicksburg activist and leader Ezell McDonald’s legacy lives on

Published 4:31 pm Friday, July 23, 2021

Local activist and community leader Ezell McDonald died Wednesday, but her legacy lives on in the hearts of those she impacted in her community of Vicksburg.

McDonald founded the Juneteenth Heritage Festival in Vicksburg, and convinced her friend and co-worker, Bobbie Bingham-Morrow, to join her on the committee of the event planning. Bingham-Morrow said that McDonald was also a mentor to her, because she was very knowledgeable about Black history and loved to teach others.

I knew nothing about Juneteenth until Ezell came and approached me about it,” Bingham-Morrow said. “She gathered a group here in Vicksburg, and we would have periodic meetings leading up to Juneteenth. That was the first time I actively participated, in 1999. Since then, either Ezell or I have kept the ball rolling on Juneteenth.”

This year, McDonald decided Juneteenth needed to become an official annual event in the community. She passed it through the Secretary of State and then the group elected positions. McDonald was elected president.

I am so grateful that she was able to participate,” Bingham-Morrow said. “She said that her heart was just so filled with joy because she really loved the output from the community and everybody participating. She was just thrilled and happy. I’d say for the two of us, Juneteenth is near and dear to our hearts.”

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said McDonald was determined to make Juneteenth important in the community, and her last year planning it was the biggest celebration yet.

I think she has helped raise awareness of the importance of Juneteenth, and it’s going to get bigger and better,” Flaggs said.

Bingham-Morrow said her favorite thing about McDonald was her expansive knowledge of Black history and how Africans have influenced the world.

She was a teacher, and she was very patient with people,” Bingham-Morrow said. “If they didn’t want to learn, she was okay with that. They eventually made it back to her to sit at her feet. She was a woman of a lot of wisdom, knowledge and understanding.”

Bingham-Morrow said she also loved her warm and welcoming spirit. She said McDonald loved her family, loved her kids and loved others.

She made you feel like you were the only person whenever she was talking to you,” Bingham-Morrow said. “She gave you her full attention.”

Flaggs said McDonald was passionate about her people and was a trailblazer for the community. He said she went about her activism with love for what she did and with grace and poise.

“She was very progressive in bringing forward things that would enhance the quality of life for people in Vicksburg and surrounding areas,” Flaggs said. “We are going to have to remember her in some type of way in the city and perhaps a marker for her legacy, because she is one of the recent community activists and very knowledgeable of the Black community — the progress and strife and struggle of the Black community.”

Flaggs said McDonald will be sorely missed in the community. Bingham-Morrow said she hopes people will continue to celebrate Juneteenth in her honor. They have already started planning for next year’s event, which will be on June 18.

“She loved Black history, and anybody that she could inform about our history she would do so,” Bingham-Morrow said.