After taking in a Juneteenth parade in Evanston on Saturday, Chanel Harris wanted to keep the celebration going so she and a group of friends and family headed to another Juneteenth celebration in Skokie.

“I’m just beside myself at the pride and the organization, the community energy that’s going on this weekend,” said Harris. “I’m impressed and I look forward to coming many more years to come. I really appreciate what the community does to recognize the holiday.”

The Skokie Juneteenth National Independence Day celebration was held on the grounds of the Skokie Park District Community Center in the 4700 block of Oakton Street on June 15 and was billed as a free day filled with live entertainment, keynote speakers, a cultural exhibition, food, vendors, fun and games, said Brian Williams, co-chair of the celebration.

Juneteenth is a federal holiday marking the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in 1863, and when news of their freedom finally reached slaves Galveston, Texas in 1865, he said.

The Skokie event was one of many such celebrations across the Chicagoland area. While Juneteenth is officially June 19, many of the celebrations associated with the day were held on the prior weekend so more people could take part, said Williams.

“It’s a fun atmosphere,” he said. “Skokie’s really diverse and I think the importance of that diversity is to also identify important events and celebrations that take place for every culture, racial and ethnic identity that’s here.”

“The fact we’re celebrating Juneteenth is to acknowledge that not everybody was free on the Fourth of July and as Americans we want to celebrate the Fourth of July too, but we have to be mindful of the history of our country and our history will tell you a different story if we’re paying attention to the Juneteenth narrative.”

He also said the day is an opportunity to reflect on the very real challenges that people of color in Skokie and throughout the Chicago area face on a daily basis, including affordable housing.

“It’s (housing) gone up every single year because taxes, rents are too high,” he noted. “It’s unfortunate because we want to keep our community affordable. It’s critical for us to have affordable housing. We want to have a diverse community but we’re not going to have a diverse community if we don’t have affordability.”

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Angela Merritt said she brought her young daughter and other family to the Skokie event to celebrate Black culture. “I love it. It’s nice,” she said. “I’m just glad my daughter was able to see Black representation. It matters.”