Evanston partnered with Evanston Present and Future to host Juneteenth celebrations Saturday. Residents marched in a morning parade from the Robert Crown Community Center to Ingraham Park, where they celebrated with live music, artistic activities and booths from local businesses.
This year’s festivities marked the third year Evanston has hosted a Juneteenth parade. Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Chakena Perry, who marched in the parade, said she appreciates how the holiday brings together community and history.
“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.
Juneteenth celebrates the 1865 proclamation that notified enslaved Texans of their freedom, the last group of enslaved African Americans in the nation to be notified. The holiday celebrates the freedom of all enslaved African Americans in the US and has been celebrated by Black Americans since the 1800s. Juneteenth became a federal holiday last year when President Joe Biden formally recognized it.
The parade included contingents from local organizations, politicians and Evanston Township High School. Residents lined the sidewalks to watch and cheer on friends and family.
Local businesses set up stands along the parade route with additional festivities. Perry said one stand, a nonprofit giving away books about the continuing problem of racial inequality, exemplified what she loved about the event.
“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. Musical performers included the Donovan Mixon Jazz Quintet and the Christ Temple Choir. Local businesses and craftspeople also set up booths to sell goods.
Cherie Lockett, who sells homemade ceramic vessels inspired by cave paintings, was one such vendor. As someone who previously worked in healthcare, Lockett said she knows people are still worried about COVID-19, but she appreciated that those who felt comfortable came 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 said this family history makes the holiday even more meaningful and she enjoyed seeing her community coalesce 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” and “Danger: Educated Black Man.”
Ross said she looked forward to seeing her church, Christ Temple, perform later that day. She said business that day was successful, and by 3 pm, she was almost out of shirts..
Perry acknowledged the continuing struggles Black Americans face, saying she views the holiday as a reminder to continue fighting 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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