‘Catfish in the Alley’ celebrates African-American heritage

January 30, 2010 11:32:00 PM

Allen Baswell - [email protected]


Music, food and honoring local African-American heritage and history are the main items on the plate of the second annual Catfish in the Alley, which is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Feb. 5-6. 


Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation Director Nancy Carpenter has spearheaded the event, along with Chuck Yarborough, a history instructor at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science. 


Carpenter noted that fostering better relationships with the African-American community and other races was the inspiration for beginning an annual series of African-American Heritage celebrations several years ago.  


Carpenter said an area of Columbus known as Catfish Alley is located at Fourth Street S., between Main and College Streets. 


"The area got its name from long-ago days when African-Americans would go fishing on the Tombigbee River, and would bring what they caught back to cook. The smell of catfish cooking attracted the attention of many people throughout," she said. 


Events ranging from food and entertainment to touring sites significant to Columbus'' African-American heritage are scheduled for the two-day event. 




Catfish and music 


On Friday, Feb. 5, Catfish and Jazz in the Alley takes place from 5:30-8 p.m. 


"We will have tents set up for the musical entertainment and the catfish meal," Carpenter said. 


Musical entertainment will be provided by Simeon Weatherby and Muzik in Action. 


"It is a jazz group with Columbus ties. Simeon Weatherby is from Columbus, and is a Columbus High graduate. He is an extremely talented saxophone player," Carpenter said. 


Since this event is Catfish in the Alley, it would only seem natural that the main item on the menu is catfish. Mississippi farm-raised catfish will be served. A dinner plate is $7 for adults and $5 for children ages 3 to 10. 


Take-out plates will not be available. Plates will be served while supplies last. 


In case of inclement weather Friday, alternate plans are to move the event to the lower level of Trotter Convention Center. 


On Saturday, a historic driving tour of Columbus will be the focal point of the event as tours will include Catfish Alley, Columbus Riverwalk, Sim Scott Park, Queen City Hotel Site, Burns Bottom, The Haven, Temple Heights'' 1837 Kitchen House, Missionary Union Baptist Church, Sandfield Cemetery, Union Cemetery, Union Academy and the Seventh Avenue Historic Business District. 


The tours will leave from the Tennessee Williams Welcome Center at 300 Main St. at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.  


Carpenter said transportation will be provided at no cost, but reservations are required. 


Yarborough, who annually oversees "Tales From the Crypt" during the annual Spring Pilgrimage, said he plans to do something similar for Catfish in the Alley, but with a smaller twist. 


"At Sandfield Cemetery, Jazzette Anthony will portray Luisa Boulden, the wife of the Rev. James Freeman Boulden. He founded several African-American churches in Columbus, and served a stint in the Mississippi Legislature during Reconstruction. She will tell the story of the Boulden family," he said. 


Courtland Perkins will be at Union Cemetery, and will portray Theodoric V. James, the first African-American doctor in Columbus. 


"He will also portray Emmett Stringer, who served as State President of the NAACP from 1953-55," Yarborough said. 


For more information about the two-day event, contact the Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation at 662-329-1191.

Allen Baswell is a former staff reporter for The Dispatch