golden lady writes!
golden lady writes!
It was an incredible 4-day Juneteenth weekend celebration in Chicago with a diverse list of things to do all over the city, from health-focused events to festivals.
Day 1: Friday, June 17th
I attended the Juneteenth Illinois Health Equity Panel and breakfast, where there was a much-needed discussion on closing the gaps in the healthcare delivery system. Awards went to public officials, health professionals, and community leaders for their efforts to help improve the quality of life for Illinois residents.
Day 2: Saturday, June 18th
The DuSable Museum of African American History, founded by renowned artist, poet, public official, and teacher Dr. Margaret Burroughs, held its Rebranding Announcement Ceremony during Juneteenth weekend. This historic institution, the oldest of its kind in the world, is now known as the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center. Because of Dr. Burroughs, education has always been at the center of the museum’s mission while presenting programming and sharing stories by African Americans. Everyone has the chance to learn the truth about our history and understand the connections and experiences of Black people around the world. According to museum president Perri Irmer, “Through the pandemic, [we have proven that]we are an example of resilience and strength of a people reclaiming our narrative and shaping it with the world.”
Cook County Third District Commissioner Bill Lowry compared DuSable Museum to Juneteenth, calling the institution “a bridge that binds our past with our present and also will take us to our tomorrow.” In light of its recent designation as a holiday, Lowry said of Juneteenth, “It has forced me to ponder where we are. We still aren’t free, and we must continue to work. We must fight for economic equity, healthcare, educational opportunities for our youth, and criminal justice reform.” Lowry put out a call to action to build citywide community centers with comprehensive services and activities. He believes the violence will decrease as a result.
Before leaving the museum, I decided to experience the virtual reality exhibit, The March. It was like being there among all the people during the March on Washington and standing up close to witness Dr. King giving his speech. The message at the end was “March On!” Visit https://www.dusablemuseum.org for more information about exhibits and programming.
Farther south and a little to the west, Kroc Center Chicago held a Block Party as part of its 10th Anniversary Celebration. Guests had a chance to explore the facility indoors and outside, patronize food trucks, play games, participate in sports, learn some fancy line dance moves, and watch a talent showcase. Vendors took over the entire outdoor track with a community yard sale. The event was a great way to celebrate Juneteenth while promoting economic empowerment and collective work. To learn more about Kroc Center Chicago, visit https://www.kroccenterchicago.com.
The Taste of Chicago came to the Pullman neighborhood on the southeast side, where Alderman Anthony Beale says there has been over $1 billion in investments and the addition of 1,700 jobs. This community event, my last stop of the day, brought food vendors, live music, DJs, Chicago SummerDance, and more together for an exciting experience. There was a strong sense of community as people gathered in unison, packing the dance floor for stepping, line dancing, and more, and enjoyed the live performances. The lyrics of Afrobeats recording artist Peter Jericho, one of the performers, say it all lest we forget: “We are influential!” Though you may deny that our ancestors had their hands in every aspect of building America, “you will have to give us credit.”
Day 3: Sunday, Juneteenth
In observance of over 20 years of transformative Black theatre, Congo Square Theatre Company presented Festival on the Square as part of its Juneteenth Homecoming Celebration at Zhou B Art Center. The event, “a celebration of arts, healing, and Black joy,” included live music, theatrical readings, dance performances, and a variety of Black vendors to choose from, including some with health and wellness options. In 2011, former Artistic Director and ensemble member Daniel Bryant created the event to celebrate and pay homage to the original Congo Square, the heart of African American culture in New Orleans. To find out how you can support Congo Square Theatre's ongoing mission to "be a haven for artists of color and to create transformative Black theatre," visit https://www.congosquaretheatre.org/visionbenefit.
DuSable Museum and Chance The Rapper presented The Juneteenth BBQ & Block Party in collaboration with The Black Mall’s 10th Annual OFFICIAL Juneteenth Celebration. The combined festival brought thousands together to celebrate Black history and culture with giveaways, children’s activities, live entertainment, workshops, free museum entry, and more. Performers included Jeremiah Collier and the Re-Up band, The Happiness Club, 40+ Double Dutch Club, and SaveMoney hip-hop artists. Though today was a great experience, having one day to celebrate is not enough. Illinois has made strides in healthcare access, education, childcare, voting rights, living wages, and justice reform. Still, there is more work to do to improve the quality of life for African Americans. After the performances, Chance the Rapper thanked the crowd for “turning up and partying in peace” and encouraged all to support DuSable Museum.
Day 4: Monday, June 20th
The National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum presented the 10th Juneteenth Community Re-Commitment Celebration and Neighborhood Parade. After the parade, people gathered outside the museum for music, food, networking, children’s activities, games, and relaxation. The festivities included the first annual Chi-Ball Juneteenth Youth Basketball Tournament at the Corliss High School gym. In this environment, the young athletes learn about community engagement by example. I spoke with Big Boss Damo, one of the performers, about his children’s songs like "Good Job" that encourage movement while learning. I also met Ranger Quinn of the Pullman National Monument, who shared information on free summer programs that allow youth to explore different places. When asked what he would like people to take away from this experience, museum President David Peterson said, “Juneteenth isn’t just a barbecue. It’s a time to commemorate, celebrate, and refocus. It’s a call to action.” Check out the museum at https://aprpullmanportermuseum.org.
Nigerian musician Femi Kuti gave an incredible evening performance at Millennium Park as part of the Summer Music Series. The concert opened with a video of musical performances all around the world set to music by DJ Mwelwa, which confirms that so many genres of music have African influence, as do all other aspects of life. If you listen closely, you will hear the connection between African tradition and the music that borrows from it. Jazz, House, Blues, World Music, and others owe a debt of gratitude.
At the end of his performance, Kuti made a powerful statement: “There’s the calm before the storm. The storm must bring love, unity, and togetherness.”