Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Email Newsletter

Sign up to receive our email newsletter in your inbox.



Juneteenth Creative Dance Team Program set to return after two-year hiatus

Illustration by Shveta Shah
Kemone Hendricks, who also organizes the annual Evanston Juneteenth Parade, founded the Creative Dance Team Program in 2020 after seeing a lack of education regarding Juneteenth in schools.

After lying dormant for two years, nonprofit Evanston Present and Future’s Juneteenth Creative Dance Team Program is back in full force, with auditions beginning in February for Black and Brown residents in Evanston, according to the nonprofit’s Facebook page. 

Kemone Hendricks founded Evanston Present and Future and its Juneteenth Creative Dance Team Program in partnership with the Dance Center Evanston in 2020 — the same year she organized the first ever annual Evanston Juneteenth Parade and Celebrations. 

Noticing the lack of education in schools regarding Juneteenth, a day that commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States, Hendricks created the program to fill in those gaps through artistic means. 

“They weren’t taught about what (Juneteenth) means to the Black community,” Hendricks said. “And I thought of including dance as a form of art to talk about Juneteenth.”

In 2020, Dance Center Evanston trained dancers for the program on Zoom and pre-recorded dance performances that were aired during the virtual Juneteenth Parade. Evanston has held in-person parades annually since 2021.

Some residents have asked Hendricks to open up auditions to children who are not Black or Brown, she said. However, she said the program remains available only to Black and Brown children. 

“We really wanted to create something that was just for Black children to learn about their heritage and to learn what their past means,” she said.

After its first year running, the dance program went inactive for two years due to logistics, according to program director Julia Ferguson.

But, last year, Ferguson said she stepped up and asked Hendricks to restart the program. Ferguson is especially passionate about it because her daughter participated in 2021.

“I felt like the girls who participated felt ownership and pride in their portion of the parade,” she said.

Program participants learn dances that are rooted in African American and Black cultures, Ferguson said. 

Ten-year-old daughter London Lytle echoed her mother’s enthusiasm. She said the program, where she learned mostly hip-hop dances, was a “new learning experience” for her, and she will participate again this year. 

The team is planning to expand the program this year, ensuring more people can take part in it, according to Hendricks. The program will also give participating dancers the opportunity to perform at other Juneteenth events and celebrations.

Ferguson said the parade will continue to promote Black awareness and Black love in an effort to spread education of Juneteenth and normalize its celebration. 

“During difficult times, there was always joy, there was always laughter, there was always song, there was always music and dance,” Ferguson said. “And so rhythmic movement is a way to celebrate that and honor our ancestors.”

Email: [email protected]

Related Stories:

Evanston commemorates Juneteenth with parade, celebration

Local restaurants, artists and residents celebrate Juneteenth with parade, live music

Northwestern honors the legacy of Black Chicago in Juneteenth event

More to Discover