Chicago celebrates Juneteenth; In Lawndale and Garfield Park: ‘It’s all about family’

The Juneteenth Village Fest in Douglass Park and the 1865 Juneteenth Fest in Garfield Park were two of the many events across the city celebrating the holiday this weekend.

SHARE Chicago celebrates Juneteenth; In Lawndale and Garfield Park: ‘It’s all about family’
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Attendees watch a performance by the A List Dance team at the Juneteenth Village Fest in Douglass Park on Sunday. June 19 marks the date in 1865 that the last enslaved people in the United States learned they had been freed, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Seccoyah Dale didn’t get the chance to celebrate Juneteenth growing up and didn’t know about the significance of the date until she became an adult.

But now that it is celebrated across the nation as a federal holiday, she wants to make sure her children know the history behind the festivities.

“I’m glad that this is something that’s going to be a part of their upbringing,” said Dale, 33.

Dale and her family were among hundreds who attended the Juneteenth Village Fest in Douglass Park in Lawndale on Sunday. The event was one of many held across the city over the weekend ahead of the holiday on Monday.

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Attendees enjoy a carnival ride at the 2023 Juneteenth Village Fest in Douglass Park on Sunday.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The festival featured a towering Ferris wheel, climbing wall and other carnival rides for kids. Local vendors set up booths selling items including books, African-inspired clothing and jewelry. On the stage, musicians Angie Stone, Talib Kweli and BJ The Chicago Kid performed.

“It feels great, this is amazing,” said Dale of the lively festival. “I’m glad that this is finally something that is being acknowledged by our area, our city and our country.”

In 2021, President Joe Biden signed bipartisan legislation establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. The holiday marks the date when the last enslaved people in the United States learned they were free — which occurred June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, news of their freedom.

Former Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared Juneteenth a paid city holiday just days before it was federally recognized.

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Seccoyah Dale and her husband, Rodney, attend the Juneteenth Village Fest in Douglass Park. “I’m glad that this is finally something that is being acknowledged by our area, our city and our country,” Seccoyah Dale said.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Shamara Hearst, who attended the festival with her sister, said celebrating the date is important because people should know where they come from and embrace their history.

“It is very important for us to know who we are as a people, know about our culture and embrace who we are and love us” Hearst said. “We can all be together as one and celebrate together.”

In Garfield Park, the third-annual 1865 Juneteenth Fest has hosted thousands of people since it kicked off Friday, according to Carol Johnson, the festival’s founder.

“The festival is community, collaboration and culture,” Johnson said Sunday. “It’s all about family.”

Johnson said 1,000 people attended the festival on Saturday alone. “We had a dance competition, the kids were out there, we gave away prizes. We had games out here, so it was really, really good.”

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Attendees spin upside down on a gyroscope at the 2023 Juneteenth Village Fest in Douglass Park.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Johnson, who has lived on the West Side for more than 50 years, said local festivals are also important because they showcase area Black-owned businesses, who are invited to sell their products to visitors.

She called the row of vendors at the 1865 Juneteenth Fest “Black Wall Street.”

In Douglass Park, Maanami Phillips sat at a booth for her mother’s clothing brand, Afro Funk Wear. Phillips described the brand as one connecting African culture to America. Her mom, Toni Hector, has been designing for more than 20 years, she said.

“We’re here at the Juneteenth festival just celebrating, supporting Black businesses, loving on our people” said Phillips, adding that she’s elated that Juneteenth is finally enjoying wider recognition.

“I’m so glad that Black people and African people are finally coming into loving ourselves and just being out loud about our culture because I feel that for a long time people were scared to say they were African and scared to say that they were Black,” Phillips said. “I love seeing so many Black people come together and just being able to support each other.”

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Toni Hector and her daughter, Maanami Phillips, at their booth at the 2023 Juneteenth Village Fest in Douglass Park.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

People walk among vendors during the 2023 Juneteenth Village Fest at Douglass Park on Sunday, June 18, 2023.

Food trucks and vendors selling jewelry, African-themed clothing and other items were on hand at Douglass Park.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

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At Garfield Park’s 1865 Fest, vendors set up tables under tents. Organizers say that more than 1,000 people attended Saturday.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

On Monday, Hyde Park will host the Thank You Chicago Juneteenth Market at the Promontory from 2 to 7 p.m., featuring vendors, food and music.

Nearby at the University of Chicago, the Logan Center for the Arts will stage “1619: The Journey of a People, The Musical.” The production covers Black history in America, starting with the arrival of the first enslaved Africans, and will be followed by a panel discussion. Tickets are available at eventbrite.com.

The DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center will celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, as well as Juneteenth, at its third annual community barbecue. The free event is all day Monday, and will feature a discussion with hip-hop artist Kool Moe Dee.

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