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By Duane Wells

First, a little history about a little-known fact.

On June 19, 1865, more than two years after President Lincoln issued his landmark Emancipation Proclamation, Major General Gordon Granger led 1,800 Union troops into a recalcitrant Galveston, Texas, where he delivered the news that the Civil War had ended and that slavery had been abolished. In so doing, he facilitated the freedom of the last remaining slaves in the United States. This began the annual celebration now known as Juneteenth — the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

Now, flash forward 156 years later.


On June 14, 2021, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot announced that Chicago would join a handful of other cities around the country in declaring Juneteenth an official City holiday.


“I, like many others, didn’t even know anything about Juneteenth until I was an adult,” Mayor Lightfoot said during her announcement. “And that’s because it has never been treated with the reverence that it should be.”


“Days like Juneteenth remind the world that Black history is truly American history,” she continued. “If you look at the history books that are used to teach our children, you may only see a passing reference, if at all. We must change that.”


And with the stroke of a pen, Mayor Lightfoot did precisely that, only to have her vision confirmed when Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker and President Joe Biden followed suit in short order and made Juneteenth both a state and federal holiday.


All of which brings us to this year.


This June will mark the first year that Juneteenth will be celebrated not only as an official City holiday in Chicago, but also as a federal holiday. In keeping with the celebratory mood of the moment, Chicago has an exciting lineup of events scheduled to herald this long-fought-for occasion.


Here are some highlights for Juneteenth 2022:


Marvel Studios’ Black Panther in Concert

In honor of Juneteenth, the Chicago Philharmonic presents Marvel Studios’ Black Panther in Concert.  Relive the excitement of this global box-office sensation and cultural phenomenon as the Chicago Philharmonic performs Ludwig Göransson’s Oscar® and Grammy®-winning score live to picture. This event will take place at The Chicago Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 18, 2022.


Black Culture Week

With the theme “Celebrate. Commemorate. Collaborate.” Black Culture Week returns to Chicago with a bigger and better edition from Friday, June 10 to Monday, June 20. In the spirit of Juneteenth, Black Culture Week features a series of multi-format, citywide events dedicated to creating, celebrating and highlighting events, businesses, institutions and actions that show reverence for Black accomplishments and act as a model for Black culture.


Juneteenth Family Festival Beverly/Morgan Park

This annual Juneteenth celebration began as a small gathering in June of 2019 in Chicago’s Dan Ryan Woods. Since then, it has grown into a full-fledged, family-oriented community event that showcases live entertainment, health and wellness, storytelling, art, African drumming circles, food, and activities for kids, while simultaneously promoting Black-owned businesses. This event will take place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 18.


33rd Annual Real Men Cook Event

Held on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 19, Real Men Cook promotes positive images of men in relationship to families and communities to combat harmful stereotypes about Black men and fatherhood. One ticket allows guests to sample various dishes that are prepared by the men of the organization. Proceeds benefit Real Men Charities, Inc., the nonprofit behind Real Men Cook.


Civil War to Civil Rights at Oak Woods Cemetery

Presented by the Chicago Architecture Center, this special walking tour on Sunday, June 19, at 1 p.m. promises to illuminate the stories behind the people buried at the Victorian-era Oak Woods Cemetery on Chicago’s South Side — from important local African Americans who fought for Civil Rights to Confederate prisoners of war. Oak Woods is also the final resting place of prominent Chicagoans including Mayor Harold Washington, journalist Ida B. Wells, Olympian Jesse Owens and physicist Enrico Fermi.


Annual Juneteenth Market

On Sunday, June 19, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., Thank You Chicago will present its Annual Juneteenth Market, a pop-up marketplace celebrating aspiring entrepreneurs and Black business owners at The Promontory in Hyde Park. Showcasing a range of vendors from a variety of industries including food, beauty and fashion in a lively, music-filled environment, the Annual Juneteenth Market promises an afternoon filled with fun, discovery, engagement and so much more.


Juneteenth Weekend Market Day

Pose Cultural Art Gallery is a community-funded and supported
venue with a mission to create a platform for artists locally and globally. On Saturday, June 18, from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m., the gallery will present a Market Day Event celebrating Black arts, crafts and local creators in honor of Juneteenth.


Juneteenth at the Nate

Join world-renowned artist Richard Hunt, described by the Smithsonian American Art Museum as “the foremost African-American abstract sculptor and artist of public sculpture,” on a walking tour to view his art and other featured work in the 100-acre Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park at Governors State University, which was recently named the best sculpture park in the nation by USA Today. As a prelude to the afternoon’s centerpiece, this Saturday, June 18 event will also feature jazz and spoken word performances.


In addition to the above, the City of Chicago will once again host a Juneteenth Flag Raising Ceremony in Daley Plaza to kick off the week leading into the Juneteenth holiday, and co-hosting the DuSable Museum’s Community Celebration and Block Party. Annual favorites including the 1865 Festival in Garfield Park and the Pullman Porter Museum’s Annual Juneteenth Celebration are also returning in 2022.

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