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Juneteenth now a federal holiday as Chicago area to end the week with countless celebratory events

In Englewood, the Inner-City Muslim Action Network is holding an event on Friday from 3 to 5 p.m. where community leaders will talk about their vision for the corner on 63rd Street and Racine Avenue.

A Juneteenth flag was raised at Daley Center Plaza Monday, June 14, 2021.
A Juneteenth flag was raised at Daley Center Plaza Monday, June 14, 2021.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file photo

President Joe Biden signed legislation Thursday afternoon that makes Juneteenth a federal holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

The move comes a day after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill that officially made Juneteenth a state holiday.

“I’m pleased to see the federal government join Illinois in recognizing Juneteenth as an official holiday, offering all Americans a day to reflect on the national shame of slavery and the work we must do to dismantle systemic racism,” said Pritzker. “Most importantly, let us stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Black Americans who will celebrate Juneteenth as a milestone in their fight for every ounce of the freedom that is their God-given right — and continue with them in that fight.”

In observation of the federal holiday, all state government offices will be closed Friday, Pritzker said.

But it’s unclear how most businesses and city government will observe the holiday this year since most of the ordinance passed early this week.

Earlier this week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared Chicago would recognize June 19 as an official city holiday starting next year. The city has several events planned as well, but since the city won’t recognize the holiday until next year, many city buildings will remain open Friday.

Last year, Fifth Third Bank shortened its hours in honor of Juneteenth for the first time, but since June 19 lands on a Saturday this year, hours are already shortened. Mark Hoppe, the bank’s president, will join a panel with Chicago’s and the state’s treasurers offices and other bank leaders to discuss advancing equity in the banking industries hiring practices.

Target will be observe the holiday nationwide, and while all stores and distribution centers will remain open, hourly employees who work June 19 will be paid time and a half. Team members will have the option to take the day off with full pay. Juneteenth will remain an annual company holiday.

A spokeswoman with the Chicago Public Library said because the holiday doesn’t go into effect until next year, they won’t be closing. On Thursday, CPL was hosting the first city-wide virtual Juneteenth Reading Circle.

In Englewood, the Inner-City Muslim Action Network is holding an event Friday from 3 to 5 p.m. where community leaders will talk about their vision for the corner on 63rd Street and Racine Avenue.

The Bronzeville Abundance Campaign and Northwestern Medicine will also celebrate Juneteenth with a day of service in the South Side neighborhood. The “Day of Service – A Celebration of Life!” will have volunteers with Northwestern Medicine join community residents for a day of cleaning, painting and updating gardens along the Calumet Avenue corridor.

That day of service will begin Saturday at 11 a.m. in the Piece of Peace Garden at 5135 S. Calumet Ave.

Other events are planned Saturday throughout the Chicago area that include live music, parades, marches, block parties, specialized yoga classes and tours.

Cook County is also at the end of its weeklong celebration of Juneteenth — marking its first year as a paid county holiday.

The county was ahead of the curve when it passed its holiday ordinance in December. On Friday, the county will kick off its Black Culture Week Citywide Caravan March at Malcom X College at 1:45 p.m.

Cook County courts will be closed Friday.

Federal employees and buildings will observe Juneteenth as a holiday Friday since the newly declared Juneteenth National Independence Day falls on a Saturday this year, according to a tweet Thursday from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the human resources office for the federal government.

A portmanteau of June and 19, the holiday celebrates the day when the last enslaved African Americans learned they had been freed.

While the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the South in 1863, it wasn’t enforced in many places until the Civil War ended, two years later. Confederate soldiers surrendered in April 1865, but word didn’t reach the last enslaved Black people until June 19, when Union soldiers brought the news to Galveston, Texas.

Contributing: Associated Press