Peoria’s inaugural Juneteenth Parade named after local social justice warrior

Peoria’s inaugural Juneteenth Parade named after local social justice warrior

PEORIA (25News Now) – Juneteenth is June 19, but Peoria is celebrating the holiday early this Saturday with the first Ernestine Jackson Juneteenth Freedom Day Parade.

Put on by the NAACP Peoria Branch #3024, hundreds of people watched and cheered as marching bands, drummers, dancers, and community organizations marched through Peoria’s southside.

The holiday is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. NAACP Peoria Branch First Vice President Sherry Carter-Allen said it has been an emotional day for her.

“I never thought I’d see this size and this impactful of an inaugural parade in our community,” Carter-Allen said. “This is first. This is history.”

To kick off the parade, Mayor Rita Ali officially proclaimed the event and honored Jackson.

Jackson was Peoria’s first Equal Employment Opportunity Officer. Carter-Allen said Jackson “put the E in equal opportunity” and was an important civil rights leader.

“For social justice, she was a warrior,” Carter-Allen said. “She represented women rights, minority rights, labor rights. Ernestine Jackson was small in stature but carried a large stick in terms of civil liberties.”

Jackson’s family said they felt honored to have the parade named after their loved one.

“My mother was going to live on, and on, and on with everything she’s done for this community prior to this,” said Jackson’s son, Donald R. Jackson Jr. “Having her name tied to this is just a wonderful thing.”

“Ernestine did so much for the community and for so many individuals,” said Jackson’s sister, Tracy Gathers. “She is worthy of having the parade named in her honor because she was an honorable woman.”

After the parade people were invited to join the fourth annual Juneteenth Fest at John Gwynn Park.

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