The celebration of Juneteenth kicked off in the west suburbs with flag-raising ceremonies and a community cookout, with more events planned to commemorate the day the remaining groups of African Americans who didn’t know about the end of slavery finally got word.

Oak Park scheduled to raise the Juneteenth flag last Wednesday in the courtyard outside Village Hall. June 12. Then, five days later, the neighboring town of River Forest planned to hold a similar ceremony at its Village Hall.

Stacey Burch cooks up hamburgers during Oak Park's Juneteenth community cookout held on the south lawn of Village Hall Saturday, June 15, 2024, in Oak Park. (James C. Svehla/for Pioneer Press)
Stacey Burch cooks up hamburgers during Oak Park’s Juneteenth community cookout held on the south lawn of Village Hall June 15, 2024, in Oak Park. (James C. Svehla/for Pioneer Press)
The Bucket Boys their show off their percussion skills during Oak Park's Juneteenth community cookout held on the south lawn of Village Hall Saturday, June 15, 2024, in Oak Park. (James C. Svehla/for Pioneer Press)
The Bucket Boys their show off their percussion skills during Oak Park’s Juneteenth community cookout held on the south lawn of Village Hall June 15, 2024, in Oak Park. (James C. Svehla/for Pioneer Press)
Marcellos Brown gets a plate full of food during Oak Park's Juneteenth community cookout held on the south lawn of Village Hall Saturday, June 15, 2024, in Oak Park. (James C. Svehla/for Pioneer Press)
Marcellos Brown gets a plate full of food during Oak Park’s Juneteenth community cookout held on the south lawn of Village Hall June 15, 2024, in Oak Park. (James C. Svehla/for Pioneer Press)
Chris Thomas reads a poem during Oak Park's Juneteenth community cookout held on the south lawn of Village Hall Saturday, June 15, 2024, in Oak Park. (James C. Svehla/for Pioneer Press)
Chris Thomas reads a poem during Oak Park’s Juneteenth community cookout held on the south lawn of Village Hall June 15, 2024, in Oak Park. (James C. Svehla/for Pioneer Press)

“We are excited to continue Oak Park’s tradition of lifting up Juneteenth and recognizing its importance for African Americans and its significance in American history,” Danielle Walker, the Oak Park chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, stated in a village news release announcing the town’s activities.

Then Saturday in Oak Park, families and others turned out to the south lawn area at Village Hall for a cookout that also included music, activities for children, information tables and Black-owned business vendors. June 15

Oak Park is commemorating Juneteenth this year with the theme, “Remembering OUR History and Claiming OUR Future.”

“I’m so thankful to celebrate Juneteenth in the Oak Park community, which is not only a place to live, but also a place to seek shelter, refuge and acceptance,” said

Chris Thomas, founder and CEO of YourPassion1st, gave Oak Park a stated role in celebrating Juneteenth.

“It is the duty of the Oak Park community to break down systems of oppression and hate to achieve a society where race no longer determines one’s outcomes, where everyone has what they need to thrive. This is both a process and a goal,” Thomas stated in the release. “This is a time to celebrate our history and ancestors while embracing our future.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when a U.S. Army general read orders in Galveston, Texas that all previously enslaved people were free. That news came years after President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation.