June 19, or Juneteenth, commemorates the date in 1865 when the last enslaved Black people in the U.S. received word from Union soldiers in Texas that they were free.
According to The Associated Press, this was more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Also known as Emancipation Day and Freedom Day, the date will be commemorated in Kankakee County through various events.
Freedom Festival, Kankakee
Formed in 2009, the Juneteenth Celebration Community Council hosts annual events in relation to Juneteenth. After last year’s festivities were canceled due to the pandemic, JCCC is looking forward to bringing back some of the fan-favorite events.
“The goal is to get individuals to reach out and seek knowledge for themselves,” said Frances Lewis, JCCC’s contact liaison and treasurer. “We put in that seed and we hope that people will take that seed and go to the websites or start reading the books and just grow so that everybody will know what Juneteenth means.”
Today’s Flag Day Celebration at noon in Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Kankakee will include a commemoration of Juneteenth. During the event, the American flag, Juneteenth flag and POW flag will be honored and celebrated.
At 6 p.m. Wednesday, there will be a midweek prayer event at We Stand For Christ Jesus Ministries, 1230 S. East Ave., Kankakee. Minister James K. Smith will be the guest speaker.
The biggest event of the week — the Juneteenth Parade — will be Saturday, June 19, and will be immediately followed by the Freedom Festival at Pioneer Park, 698 N. Hobbie Ave., Kankakee. The parade kicks off at 10 a.m., with the route starting across the street from the Paramount Theatre.
The parade will continue down Oak Street, Indiana Avenue, Court Street and Hobbie Avenue to come to a finish at Pioneer Park. The festival starts at noon and will include guest speakers, food, and clothing and craft vendors.
There will also be COVID vaccinations. The festival is free to the public, with donations being accepted by JCCC.
“This is an opportunity to inform our community and beyond about the ending of slavery,” said Lewis. “It’s always important to us to get the word out so that everybody knows the struggles the African- Americans went through, and how, now, we can still come and work together. The whole process is geared to give everyone the opportunity to learn about their past and bring the community together.”
For more information, visit 1865jccc.com or find Juneteenth Celebration Community Council on Facebook.
Kankakee Public Library
Children are invited to Juneteenth Story Time at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 17, on the second floor of the Kankakee Public Library, 201 E. Merchant St., Kankakee.
The event, geared toward those ages 3 to 12, will include a story about the Juneteenth holiday and making a festive craft to take home.
“This is a great opportunity to get that early touch-point with June 19 and learning what the holiday is,” said Whitney Mittons, Kankakee Community College’s coordinator of equity, diversity and inclusion.
Mittons noted that KCC is “committed to uplifting and amplifying the voices and different things about cultures that are very diverse.”
Juneteenth/Summer Solstice Celebration
From 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Governor State University’s advisory board for theNate will be hosting a Juneteenth and summer celebration at the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park, 1 University Pkwy., University Park.
The outdoor promenade through the sculpture park includes a focus on Juneteenth with relevant monumental sculptures, a drumming call to celebrate, jazz performances from Jataun Rollins and Jeanne Miller, an art exhibition in the GSU Visual Arts Gallery, kids outdoor activities, refreshments, souvenir photos and more.