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What Juneteenth Means to Me

For many, Juneteenth represents a day of connection, pride and hope. Chandra Ewell, senior program associate for the National Center of Parent, Family and Community Engagement, reflects on what Juneteenth means to her and offers resources for how we all can learn more about the history and importance of Juneteenth.

Chandra Ewell June 17, 2021
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For me, Juneteenth represents a day of connection past, present and future — all existing in one day. I think of my grandparents who were part of the Great Migration from the South in the early 50s. They left Mississippi with seven children, in hopes of finding a better life and future for their family. Conditions of economic hardship, segregation and discrimination in the South had made it necessary to seek out better and safer places to live. I stand in the present thinking of all the opportunities that have been afforded to me through the blood, sweat and sacrifices of all the people who came before me and have fought for the rights and privileges I have. I look to my son, as the future, in hopes his generation will be the first to completely dismantle systems of injustice. Juneteenth is a day of hope, where the worries of yesterday are gone, and the burden of tomorrow has not quite come. It is the moment in time where the impossible suddenly feels possible.

On June 19, 1865, Union Gen. Gordon Granger and 2,000 Union Troops arrived in Galveston, Texas issued an order officially freeing the slaves. I know you might think, “Wasn’t the Emancipation Proclamation signed in 1863?” Yes, it was, but unfortunately people who lived in more remote areas still lived as they were enslaved. After slavery ended, African Americans were inspired and empowered to transform their lives and their country. Juneteenth is about capturing this hope and renewing the energy of all the work that has been done and still needs to happen in this country. Juneteenth is U.S. history.

There are so many ways to celebrate and honor Juneteenth. Here are a few ways we all can get involved:

  • Learn more about black history and Juneteenth. Read a book, watch a movie, listen to a podcast, listen to the Emancipation Proclamation on YouTube. Take time to learn more about the stories and experiences of black people in the U.S.
  • Celebrate cook a big meal, have a barbecue, attend an event in your area or online.
  • Shop support black-owned businesses or black causes.
  • Connect with family, friends, people in your community this day is all about coming together.

When one story stops, another begins. While we all know that the end of slavery gave way to new atrocities and injustices for black people across the U.S., Juneteenth is an opportunity to take pride in how far we’ve come and recommit ourselves to the ongoing fight to end racial injustices.

Here are some virtual and in-person events that you can check out:

Virtual Events (all times Central)

Looking Ahead to Juneteenth: Centering Black Parents Voices in the Age of COVID-19 and Racial Reckoning, Thursday, June 17, 12 p.m.

Inaugural Juneteenth Reading Circle: Richard Wright Thursday, June 17, 6 – 7:30 p.m.

Virtual Juneteenth Celebration Eiteljorg Museum 

The Amistad Center for Art & Culture 30th Annual Juneteenth Celebration Saturday, June 19, 5:30 p.m. 

Step Afrika! Juneteenth Virtual Celebration Saturday, June 19, 7 p.m. 

A Juneteenth Commemoration Featuring Annette Gordon-Reed Saturday, June 19, 2 p.m. 

In-Person Events (Chicago Area)

Juneteenth Black to Life Celebration Saturday, June 19, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., Location: Behind Museum of Science and Industry 

Juneteenth Ride Saturday, June 19, 12– 2:30 p.m., Wintrust Arena 

Juneteenth at Sculpture Park Saturday, June 19, 1– 4 p.m., Location Sculpture Park, Governors State University, University Park, IL (Limited Capacity – please visit link and RSVP if planning to attend) 

2nd Annual Rich Auntie Energy Juneteenth Bonfire Saturday, June 19, 6 p.m. – Midnight, Central, Promontory Point, Hyde Park 

Homewood-Flossmoor Juneteenth Festival Saturday, June 19, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m., Homewood-Flossmoor High School 

About the Author

Chandra Ewell Headshot

Chandra Ewell

Manager, Conference & Community Affairs

Chandra supports the planning and implementation of Early/Head Start Network events.

More About Chandra

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