READY FOR JUNETEENTH

Retired singer will be honored as Hometown Hero

Juneteenth
Mrs. Narcissus Brown, 100, who once sang at the White House, will be honored at the Juneteenth banquet in Daytona Beach.

BY ANDREAS BUTLER
DAYTONA TIMES

One of Daytona Beach’s centenarians will be among the locals honored as a Hometown Hero at this year’s Juneteenth banquet.

Mrs. Narcissus Brown, 100, is a retired professional singer who continues to make her mark in this community.

“I feel honored. I am blessed and I am thankful,” she told the Daytona Times.

The Juneteenth Festival Committee believes that honoring locals is the right thing to do during its Hometown Heroes salute at its annual banquet.

“It is important for us to honor our hometown heroes. They make this a better place to live. They have given so much to us. It’s easier to honor those who have a lot of money and donate but why not those who don’t and just give their time, heart and energy,” said Linda McGhee, chair of Daytona Beach’s Juneteenth events.

Banquet, then festival

Daytona Beach’s Juneteenth Festival is one of the largest in the state and attracts vendors from around Florida.

This year’s Juneteenth banquet is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 12, in the Mori Hosseini Student Union Building at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, 600 Clyde Morris Blvd., Daytona Beach. The event is $35 per person.

The festival will take place on Saturday, June 15, in Daytona’s Cypress Park, at 925 George W. Engram Blvd., from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m.

Worthy of honor

Juneteenth commemorates the day when slaves in Texas and Oklahoma found out that they were free in 1867, which was two years following the American Civil War. The official day celebrated is June 19, 1865.

The event started in Texas but has spread across the country.

McGhee says Brown is more than worthy to be honored this year. “With her legacy and contributions to everyone, she is an example of how we should be. She is religious, kind and she is a giver,” McGhee noted.

“She does it without asking for anything back. She is good to everyone and will help with everything. Her longevity shows that God has blessed her and she is healthy, in her right mind.’’

Sings, volunteers

Even at her age, Brown stays active, is highly motivated and having fun.

“It’s only the Lord God! He allows me to do all things. I put all my trust and desires in his hands. He keeps my eyes open; I can still get around. I take care of myself. I am in right body and mind,” she said.

She still volunteers her time and helps out when she can. Brown still sings – when asked – at church and community events.

“Oh, yes, I’ll still sing if asked. I just can’t stand… I’m on a walker. I’m 100, but I’m just living and enjoying life. I was brought up in a religious family, which always helped out when needed,” she related.

Sang for president

Brown sang at the White House for President George H.W. Bush in 1988 at the age of 88.

“It was marvelous and surreal.  I was surrounded by so many people and I was being asked so many questions that I couldn’t answer them all. I was amped up,” recalls Brown.

She has sung a lot in choirs and on gospel circuits, which her family often did. She comes from a religious family and is the godmother of gospel artist Kurt Carr.

Global performances

Brown also has performed on the “Bobby Jones Gospel Hour’ ‘and the “Bing Cosby Show’’ as well as for various elected officials around the country.

While singing, Brown mostly did gospel but did dabble in other genres. Her singing helped her see the world.

“I sang with (jazz musician) Erroll Garner. He wanted me to sing in a club, but I was skeptical. My family was religious, but they allowed me to. I ended up singing in Germany and France,” Brown recalled.

Pittsburgh native

Born on Feb. 18, 1919 in South Boston, Virginia, she relocated with her parents to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when she was 9. She graduated from high school there.

She moved to Daytona Beach in 1990 to be cared for by her daughter, Nadine Spencer.

Brown has worked at Children and Families in Volusia County and the Center for the Blind in Daytona Beach. She attends Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church.

A widower, she is the mother of three, and has three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Brown does have some advice for young people.

“My talent didn’t take me too far, but any youngster with a talent should try to develop that talent and use it mainly to serve God,” she said.

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