The smell of barbecue and the sound of jazz music wafted through the air as people picnicked on a green lawn, and kids jumped on a bouncy house and slid down an inflatable slide. Some kids eagerly waited in line with their parents so they could go horseback riding.
Others walked around booths, fanning themselves as temperatures reached the 80s and the sun beat down on their shoulders. The stands displayed shirts and jewelry, promoted mentoring programs, offered beauty products and more.
This was the Juneteenth scene on Sunday afternoon at the recently renamed DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center.
Shettima Webb, a small-business owner, spoke about celebrating Juneteenth as a Black woman.
“It’s like a mixed bag — you feel sad because there’s a reminder, wow, in this country there was slavery, but then you also celebrate the strides that has happened as well,” Webb said. “We don’t forget where we come from, but we also want to acknowledge where we are going, so Juneteenth is important for everybody, not just Black people.”
The holiday celebrates the announcement made on June 19, 1865, to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, that slavery had been abolished after the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed 2 ½ years earlier by President Abraham Lincoln.
On Sunday, the block party was full of musical performances, lively conversations and good food. Chance the Rapper, born and raised in Chicago and slated to perform at night, co-sponsored the event.
The musician was walking around during the afternoon, mingling with visitors and taking pictures.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot made an appearance early on, taking the stage to reflect on the importance of Juneteenth — for the first time recognized as a municipal holiday.
“Juneteenth every year should be a call to action,” Lightfoot said. “A call to make sure that we’re doing everything that we can make sure that our young people in particular understand their history and that we recommit ourselves to righting historic wrongs and uplifting the equality of the life of our communities.”
She also discussed the significance of Father’s Day, which coincided with Juneteenth this year.
“Black fathers are important. Black fathers aren’t always given their due,” she said, taking a moment to thank her father. “Let’s make sure that we remember Juneteenth, that we celebrate our heritage every day and that we say ‘Thank you’ to our fathers.”
Tiffany Richardson, 39, said seeing so many people and groups showed how the day went beyond African American history.
“So, it’s like a celebration of so many different things, you know? Small businesses, African Americans, Americans,” she said. “It’s just so dope.”
She said she was part of the Chicago metropolitan alumnae chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, which was co-sponsoring the block party provides with the Black Mall, which digital marketing solutions for Black businesses.
A few block party participants wore head wraps with vibrant patterns and matching earrings, which they had bought from Webb, the business owner who made jewelry and described herself as an accountant by day. The Black Mall invited small, Black-owned businesses together to participate in the event.
Reflecting on the need for Black businesses to help each other, Webb said her venture, ME Marketplace, is an incubator for 10 Black-owned businesses to practice cooperative economics in Forest Park.
Bringing so many people together for a day of celebration took a lot of preparation and cooperation, said Kim Dulaney, vice president of education and programs at the DuSable Museum.
“It is absolutely a communal labor of love,” she said.
Happy Juneteenth. A party with a purpose, right?” Dulaney said. “Remember the reason for the holiday.”