Evanston Present and Future partnered with Evanston to host Saturday’s Juneteenth celebrations. Residents marched from Robert Crown Community Center through Ingraham Park to celebrate with live music, artistic activities, and booths from local businesses.
This year’s festivities marked the third year Evanston has hosted a Juneteenth parade. Chakena Perry, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner, marched in the parade and said that she appreciated how the holiday brought together history and community.
“It’s important that communities across Cook County not only understand the history of Juneteenth and the significance of it, but just the collective nature of coming together as a community, actually sitting down and learning from each other (is important),”She said.
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Juneteenth is the anniversary of the 1865 proclamation which notified enslaved Texans their freedom. This was the last group of enslaved African Americans to be notified in the country. This holiday is a celebration of the freedom of all enslaved African Americans living in the United States and has been celebrated by Black Americans ever since the 1800s. President Joe Biden officially made Juneteenth a federal holiday in 2013.
Local politicians, representatives of local organizations and Evanston Township High School were part of the parade. Residents lined the streets to cheer on their friends and family.
Local businesses set up booths along the parade route, offering additional entertainment. Perry said that Perry loved the event because she saw one stand, a nonprofit that gave away books on the ongoing problem of racial inequality.
“There’s not just people marching and people watching, but there’s actually an intentional effort to educate as well,”Perry said.
The following celebration in Ingraham Park featured food vendors like Hecky’s Barbecue and Cookies w/flavor. The Christ Temple Choir and Donovan Mixon Jazz Quintet were among the musical performers. Local businesses and craftspeople also set-up booths to sell their goods.
Cherie Lockett sells handmade ceramic vessels inspired by cave paintings. Lockett, who used to work in healthcare, said that she understands people’s concerns about COVID-19. However, she was happy to see people who feel comfortable come together to celebrate.
“It’s what life should be, or could be, and it’s a nice reminder,” Lockett said. “Human beings are social animals — we need one another. It’s extremely important. Human beings need to be renewed.”
Reka’s Crafty Creations owner Dereka Ross attended the festival to sell a special batch of Juneteenth T-shirts.
Ross’s grandmother, who sat behind Ross’s booth, grew up in the South. Ross believes this family history makes the holiday more meaningful, and she enjoyed seeing her community come together to celebrate.
“(The event) was needed,”She said. “We’ve been locked away for a while, haven’t been able to have big events — we’ve had small events, but nothing of this magnitude to be able to see everybody and have something for the kids, something for the adults.”
Ross’s shirts featured phrases such as, “July 4th didn’t set me free, Juneteenth is my Independence Day” “Danger: Educated Black Man.”
Ross stated that she was looking forward to seeing Christ Temple perform later in the day. She stated that business was very successful and she was almost out her shirts by 3 p.m.
Perry acknowledged the continued struggles Black Americans face. She said that the holiday is a reminder of the need to fight for freedoms.
“Juneteenth at its core is about celebrating freedom, and now although we are free by law, there are some freedoms that a lot of communities still don’t get to enjoy, particularly in the Black community,”Perry said. “But today we can come together in a diverse group here in Evanston to celebrate at its core.”
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— Northwestern will recognize Juneteenth, University holiday
— Juneteenth is celebrated by activists and black business, non-profits, black politicians, black dancers, musicians, poets, and politicians.